Agriculture/Animal Welfare, Animal Welfare, Dáil Issues

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his response to the Indecon Report into the Greyhound Industry published in July, which confirmed significant animal welfare problems in the industry, including whether hare coursing should now be banned.

– Clare Daly. 
   

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 23rd September, 2014. 

REPLY 
 

The Minister for Agriculture, Food   and the Marine : (Simon Coveney) 

  
The Report produced by Indecon International Economic Consultants on completion of the ir   ‘Review of Certain Matters Relating to Bord na gCon’ was published in July 2014 . This review was commissioned by my Department   in order to assess the suitability of the legal, governance and regulatory framework supporting the greyhound industry and to identify opportunities to maximise the commercial income of Bord na gCon, with a view to assisting the greyhound racing industry in reaching its potential. 
  
Under the terms of reference for the review Indecon were tasked, inter alia, to assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of the systems operated by Bord na gCon with regard to the regulation of the industry and greyhound welfare and to make recommendations as to any changes required. 
  
The Indecon Report confirms that Bord na gCon has a range of practical measures in place to deal with animal welfare and made recommendations as to how these measures could be enhanced. 
  
The Report verifies that Bord na gCon has produced the “Code of Practice for the care and welfare of greyhounds”, as required under the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011, to guide people involved in the industry as to how greyhounds should be cared for. 
  
The Report also acknowledges that Bord na gCon has a Welfare and Racing Operations Support Manager and a Welfare Committee whose aim is to enhance the care and management of all greyhounds, including racing, coursing and retired greyhounds. That Committee is charged with the responsibility of identifying problems and proposing appropriate solutions to a variety of greyhound welfare issues over the entire life span of a greyhound. The Report also noted that Bord na gCon recently appointed a Director of Racing Compliance and Governance, 
  
The Report also makes reference to the Retired Greyhound Trust which focuses on retired and unwanted greyhounds with a view to providing homes for these greyhounds as pets. 
  
Bord na gCon employ three Area Stipendiary Stewards and 13 Control Stewards, who together with the Welfare and Racing Operations Manager , have all been appointed Welfare Officers under the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011. 
  
In addition many racetrack employees and officials have an animal welfare element included in their duties. Bord na gCon also ensure that veterinary surgeons attend race meetings and sales meetings. 
  
The Indecon Report confirms that 2,706 greyhound litters were inspected in 2013 by Control/Stipendiary Stewards who are Authorised Officers under the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011. 
  
Indecon recommended that Bord na gCon na gCon should devise and implement a stronger system of appropriate and proportionate sanctions which would work both as a deterrent and a sanction. The measures suggested by Indecon include exclusion and disqualification orders, significant fines and unannounced inspections of kennels. 
My colleague, Minister Tom Hayes TD, presented the Indecon Report to Bord na gCon on 7th July 2014 for their consideration and has requested that the Bord prepsares an action plan to implement the recommendations in the Report, including those that refer to greyhound welfare. I expect that plan to be submitted in the next few weeks. 
  
The Deputy also makes reference to the banning of hare coursing. Under the provisions of the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 the regulation of coursing is chiefly a matter for the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) subject to the general control and direction of Bord na gCon. 
Greyhounds involved in coursing are subject to the provisions of the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011.The ICC has confirmed that it has systems in place to underpin the welfare of animals participating in coursing and that it goes to great lengths to ensure the highest standards of hare and greyhound welfare are adhered to. These procedures include mandatory inspections of hares and coursing venues in advance of the commencement of an event.    
  
The ICC ensures that a veterinary surgeon and an ICC control steward are present at all coursing meetings. In addition, veterinary staff from my Department and rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (part of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht) attend a number of coursing meetings during the season in a monitoring capacity. 
  
As a further control, a Monitoring Committee on Coursing was established during the 1993/94 coursing season and comprises of officials from my Department and representatives from both the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the ICC to monitor developments in coursing and in that regard the situation is kept under constant review to ensure that coursing is run in a well controlled and responsible manner in the interests of hares and greyhounds alike. 
  
The systems in place to oversee coursing are, in my view, effective, proportionate and working well. I have no plans to ban hare coursing.