I move amendment No. 1:
In page 9, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following:
" "white list" means the annual list prepared by welfare members of the International Greyhound Forum in conjunction with Rásaíocht Con Éireann of countries, which at its sole discretion, meet minimum standards with regard to welfare of greyhounds, and to which the licensed export of greyhounds from the State ought to be permissible.".
I thank the committee for the opportunity to introduce these amendments. I shall make a few general remarks about the issue because that is the context on which the amendments were submitted. Notwithstanding the efforts of owners who look after their greyhounds, including when they no longer race and do not win prize money, there are too many examples of appalling cruelty to greyhounds. The Animal Welfare Act does not address this matter for various reasons. As a result, the Bill is an opportunity for us to get the issue of greyhound welfare right.
It is ironic that there is ban on the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes and circuses, which is great, but that greyhounds - domesticated animals - are used for so-called entertainment in places like Macau, Pakistan and China. Unfortunately, the greyhound industry in Ireland did not highlight or try to do something about this issue. The animal welfare groups have drawn attention to it but greyhounds continue to end up in Macau, China and Pakistan. That is the reality and we have the proof because the same few names of Irish greyhound breeders keep recurring on a Chinese database. In addition, copies of studbooks have been uploaded and greyhounds that were previously registered to race in Ireland are currently advertised as breeding material in China. I have evidence that details on 41 Irish greyhounds have been uploaded to a Chinese website. Sadly, greyhounds face extreme cruelty in the countries to which I refer. I have met a couple of the lucky greyhounds that were rescued and brought back to Ireland.
I have tabled various parliamentary questions on the export of greyhounds. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine outlined in his reply to one of my parliamentary questions that Bord na gCon is responsible for the governance, regulation and development of the greyhound industry. Bord na gCon does not support the export of greyhounds to destinations that do not conform to the standards stipulated in the Animal Health and Welfare Act, the Welfare of Greyhounds Act, etc. The Minister agrees with the stance taken Bord na gCon yet the reality is what is happening. My amendments, and the amendments tabled by my colleagues, seek to put a stop to the export of greyhounds.
The vast majority of Irish greyhounds are exported to the UK so there are issues concerning Brexit. We know that dogs in the EU are governed by EU law and we know that EU countries are being used as transit points. That is the reality.
Amendment No. 1 focuses on welfare and seeks the inclusion of the International Greyhound Forum, in conjunction with Rásaíocht Con Éireann, the new name for Bord na gCon, to have a role in determining what constitutes sound and problematic exports. Let us remember that it is the welfare groups that pick up the pieces when racing dogs no longer have a commercial value. With decreasing attendances at greyhound race meetings, we know that there are financial issues too. Perhaps financial necessity might lead some owners to do what we know has happened and is continuing to happen.
Amendment No. 5 seeks to make it an offence to export greyhounds to countries outside of the EU, a matter I explained earlier. Subsection (2) in the amendment takes out the transit question because we know that countries are being used as transit countries. While the practice will be hard to police, it is important that we acknowledge that the practice is a problem and send the message that Ireland does not accept the practice of exporting dogs bred here to places countries such as Macau, Pakistan and China. In addition, we want to send the message that dogs can be traced back to their Irish breeders because organisations have traced dozens of dogs in Pakistan, China and Macau back to Ireland.
The next amendment is on offences, fines and prison terms. It seeks to create an environment whereby the trainer will know the consequences for exporting to countries where there is no animal welfare and no concern for greyhounds. I hope the amendment will act as a deterrent for those trainers who knowingly export their greyhounds to these places. We know that people export their greyhounds for profit. Therefore, the fines and sentences must be good enough to act as a real deterrent.
The next amendment gives the Minister the power to amend the white list on an annual basis. The initiative allows for change because some countries may introduce animal welfare regulations. The amendment gives people a chance to come off the white list. Equally, countries that are supposedly in favour of animal welfare may go off the list if they are shown to be in breach of animal welfare regulations. The amendment also means we would have figures for the number of dogs that are exported, where they are sent, etc. Such data is crucial because at the moment we depend on independent sources for the information. The amendment puts an onus on the Minister and the Department.
These amendments are not draconian in any way. Again, I stress the fact that they are about the welfare of dogs. If we really want to seriously improve animal welfare then we must do all we can to ensure that Irish greyhounds do not end up in countries where there are appalling breaches in animal welfare. In fact, there is no animal welfare in quite a number of countries. If people genuinely care for greyhounds, they will not have a problem with these amendments. Owners tell me all the time how much they love their greyhounds. Acceptance of these amendments is an opportunity for people to show how much they truly love greyhounds and to put that into action.
I have not tabled an amendment on the registration of greyhounds but I will do so later. Why must one register greyhounds with the Irish Coursing Club? There are greyhound owners who do not want to register their dogs with the club as they do not participate in coursing yet their registration fees go to the club. I am sure that the greyhound racing industry could do with more funding because attendance at race meetings has decreased. I have introduced the amendments and I will leave it at that for now.