The joint committee on agriculture, food and marine published its report yesterday, which comes after a separate review into the sector conducted by Indecon Consultants in 2014.
The latest report estimates that the greyhound racing industry supports about 10,300 jobs and generates €500m for the exchequer and that for the years 2011 to 2013, 47,702 greyhounds were named or registered for racing in Ireland while 18,690 were exported to the UK.
Since 2001, Bord na gCon (the Irish Greyhound Board) has received about €174.5m from the exchequer with €14.8m to be provided in 2016, but total income in the industry peaked at €78m in 2007 and had fallen by 49% to €39.8m by 2014. However, one of the recommendation’s in the committee’s report is that new and up-to-date information be gathered and used to give a fresh overview of the industry.
It also refers to the “prominent issue” of Bord na gCon’s debt of €21m, arising from the development of a new stadium in Limerick at Greenpark which opened in October 2010 and which was the subject of a Comptroller and Auditory General Special Report published in August 2014.
Among the report’s recommendations is an improved traceability regime and possibly a single register whereby each greyhound whelped is microchipped and recorded on one central database by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in collaboration with Bord na gCon and the Irish Coursing Club.
The committee also recommends that the issue of abandonment of greyhounds be treated in legislation if necessary, and “more stringent penalties” should apply to tackle certain offences such as owners who fail to transfer ownership when they give away or sell a registered greyhound.
It also states “that a person found guilty of serious and ongoing cruelty within the industry should receive a lifetime ban” and that “the minister should instruct Bord na gCon of any extra funds provided by the exchequer for prize money should be ringfenced. Any unused prize money should be returned to the exchequer and not used for debt servicing or for other operational or marketing purposes.”
The committee says a zero tolerance policy is vital on the issue of prohibited substances in greyhound racing. It also recommended the powers of the welfare committee of Bord na gCon be enhancedand, if necessary, placed on a statutory footing to ensure full independence.
The Indecon report also made recommendations for the industry, which has come under intense scrutiny in recent years. The committee said that one Indecon recommendation should be delivered, namely that the period for appointment of members to the board of the Irish Greyhound Board not exceed two terms or six terms, and that this provision “must be adhered to immediately”.
Bord na gCon is also asked to provide a detailed update on its progress towards achieving the financial targets which underpin its strategic business plan, based on the recent policy changes made by Bord na gCon to implement the recommendations of the Indecon review.