A momentous day for animal welfare.

alfie the greyhound

Alfie the greyhound relaxes at home.

The NSW government announced on 7 July that it will ban greyhound racing in the state. Rev Barbara Allen, the synod’s Spirituality and Creation Project Worker, writes about the importance of caring for creation.

Today, 7 July 2016, will go down in Australian history as a momentous day for animal welfare.

It is the day that NSW issued a ban on greyhound racing. Greyhound racing is already banned in many countries, and in many states of the United States of America. Not only has Mike Baird, the NSW Premier, announced that greyhound racing will cease on 1 July 2017, there are also conversations about creating rehoming programs for the greyhounds.

Why should the Church care? Why should the Uniting Church be interested? We should be rejoicing, because this is a courageous example of caring for all creation and being a prophetic voice for all who suffer. Within the Victorian and Tasmanian Synod, this decision resonates with the Vision and Mission Principles which arose from the Synod’s recent Major Strategic Review. Part of our Vision is ‘seeking community, compassion and justice for all creation’, and one of our Mission Principles is to ‘care for creation.’ No living creature, human or non-human, should ever go through such hardship and cruelty as many greyhounds have experienced, and have it sanctified as ‘okay’ by a community.

Of course, it is shameful that such a measure had to be implemented because of excessive cruelty practices in the first place. The practices were outlined after a Special Commission of Inquiry was formed following an ABC Four Corners investigation of the greyhound industry.

The report found that up to 20 per cent of trainers engaged in live baiting, using live piglets, possums and rabbits to train greyhounds. Up to 180 greyhounds each year sustained major injuries during races, including skull fractures, resulting in their deaths. The report from the Special Commission of Inquiry found that between 48,000-68,000 greyhounds (almost half of all greyhounds born to race) were killed in the past 12 years because they were deemed uncompetitive – in other words not fast enough!  

NSW Premier Mike Baird said that former High Court judge, Justice Michael McHugh, ‘has shone a light on an industry that has overseen the slaughter of tens of thousands of healthy dogs whose only crime was not being fast enough.’ The continuation of such cruel ‘sports’ and practices is a reminder that we have failed as stewards of all creation. Animal cruelty can never be justified. What goes on behind closed doors, and within a protected industry, needs to be brought into the light, examined and exposed.

War Horse author Michael Morpurgo wrote Born To Run in 2007, which addressed the cruelty of greyhound racing. The book is a modern Black Beauty, and makes one question the legitimacy of this cruel ‘sport’.

What can you do?

Read the news. Send a ‘Like’ on Facebook when you read positive changes like Mr Baird’s announcement. Donate to Greyhound Rescue. Talk about the issue. If you are thinking about adopting a dog, why not consider rescuing a greyhound?

Ros Marsden, a member of the Uniting Church’s communications team fell in love with greyhounds when her daughter adopted one.

“I used to think they were a little ugly, but when you pat their velvet ears and they look at you with their soulful eyes, you realise they’re beautiful inside and out. Alfie is a great pet; he sleeps a lot, loves couches, beds and heaters and is content with a short walk twice a day. He is good with cats, but some greyhounds aren’t. The GAP program means that before you adopt, the dogs have been screened for all types of suitability and you will be matched appropriately for your household circumstances.” In the words of Gandhi: ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,’ or, Martin Luther King Jr: ‘Free at last, free at last…’

Barbara Allen
Spirituality and Creation Project Worker

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