During budget estimates earlier this month I questioned the Minister for Agriculture about the surprise removal of surgical artificial insemination procedures from the list of banned procedures in the draft Animal Welfare Bill. This surgical procedure, which is entirely unnecessary and causes significant pain to female dogs—particularly dogs used in the greyhound racing industry—was going to be banned under the draft Animal Welfare Bill until, just a few weeks into his role, the Minister for Agriculture suddenly intervened.
The Minister's decision first came to my attention through a greyhound racing industry publication. On 4 FebruaryThe Greyhound Recorder reported on a meeting between the agriculture Minister and Greyhound Racing NSW. It stated:
Saunders gave the gathering his undivided assurance that Frozen Semen procedures would be removed from the banned procedures noted in the proposed bill ...
This news came as a complete shock to animal protection groups and animal welfare advocates because they had not been consulted before this undertaking was given to the greyhound racing industry. The Minister did not consult with the RSCPA, which described this surgical procedure as "highly invasive" and which says that it causes significant pain to female dogs. He did not consult with the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds. He did not consult with the Australian Veterinary Association. When questioned at budget estimates, the agriculture Minister was quite happy to defend his decision to unilaterally amend the bill after a single meeting with the greyhound industry and nobody else. I even asked the Minister if knowing that the procedure is banned in other countries because it is considered "ethically unacceptable" would change his position, and he still said no.
To add insult to injury—literally, in the case of the dogs who have to undergo this procedure—the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds' submission to the inquiry on the draft New South Wales Animal Welfare Bill 2022 exposes that surgical artificial insemination procedures are not only painful and unethical but also completely unnecessary because an alternative procedure, known as transcervical artificial insemination, is able to achieve the same results without the same pain and suffering to the animal involved. The agriculture Minister is clearly acting against the recommendations of animal welfare experts despite the existence of better alternatives and solely in the interests of the greyhound racing industry.
He has shown that he is only willing to listen the contributions of people with a vested interest in using animals for profit and not those who protect animals. In doing so, he has failed in his role as the Minister overseeing animal protection laws. It boils down to this: The agriculture Minister is going to allow greyhound breeders to keep conducting a procedure that was going to be banned because it causes dogs pain just because the industry wants him to. The lack of consultation and consideration on animal welfare exposes what we already know: The agriculture Minister has a major conflict of interest and, until it is fixed, animal protection laws in this State are doomed to fail.
The problem is that the agriculture Minister must simultaneously promote animal protection and the interests of the industries that use and abuse animals for profit. It is a hopeless situation for animals, made worse by the powerful influence of wealthy industry lobby groups. It could not be more obvious. Having an agriculture Minister in charge of animal protection is like having a mining Minister in charge of the environment. We need a Minister responsible for animal protection who will not neglect major issues of animal protection and animal suffering and who is genuinely independent from animal‑use industries. And, Minister, we need that now.