The Welfare of Racing Greyhounds

1. Questions to the First Minister – in the Senedd at on 4 June 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Altaf Hussain Altaf Hussain Conservative

(Translated)

6. What action is the Welsh Government taking to protect the welfare of racing greyhounds, both on and off the racetrack? OQ61220

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour 2:06, 4 June 2024

Thank you. In March this year we concluded our 12-week consultation on the regulation of animal welfare establishments, activities and exhibits. This refers to companion animals. The consultation proposed licensing owners, keepers and trainers of racing dogs, including greyhounds, with a view to improving their lifelong welfare, from birth to retirement, when bred or raised specifically for sport. 

Photo of Altaf Hussain Altaf Hussain Conservative

Thank you for that response, First Minister. While seeking election to the post of First Minister, you stated on your social media channel that

'Protecting Greyhounds goes beyond just ending the sport—we need to ensure good care throughout a greyhound's life.'

I could not agree more. But does the First Minister agree with me that ending greyhound racing sooner rather than later is key to protecting the welfare of these wonderful animals? Therefore, will you commit to a meeting with the Cut the Chase coalition that has been campaigning on the issue, to discuss their concerns about the well-being of the dogs that are still being used for commercial racing in Wales? Thank you.

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour 2:07, 4 June 2024

I thank the Member for his question and the genuineness. I know he is a supporter of the campaign to end greyhound racing and the reasons behind that. I want to thank everyone who took the time to get involved in the consultation; we had over 1,100 consultation responses. So, we're having to go through those, undertake a proper analysis of them, then come out with the response from the Government. It's why I can't give a commitment that I know the Member and others may want to hear, for a specific outcome, because we do need to understand what that response is, in all of its terms, and then to set out what the Government's response will be.

One of the points in the consultation is about whether to support a phased ban, but as I have said, and will go on saying, you need to think about not just greyhounds for today but, actually, the welfare for those greyhounds, if the sport continues or, indeed, if greyhound racing ends. That's what we'll look at. I don't want to prejudge or pre-empt the consultation, but I do take seriously the point the Member makes, and I know that there is genuine cross-party support on this issue.

Photo of Jane Dodds Jane Dodds Liberal Democrat 2:08, 4 June 2024

Good afternoon, Prif Weinidog. It's not a surprise to many that I wanted to just say a few words on this issue, and I'm grateful to my colleague Altaf Hussain. I do understand totally that you're not able to prejudge any outcome in relation to the consultation period, but just to say a little bit about my dog, Wanda, she is—[Interruption.] No, I won't go into that. She and the previous dog that I owned, the previous racing greyhound, were both very traumatised by racing. Wanda, in fact, ran her last race in October of last year—it was her forty-eigth race in four years. I very much hope that the consultation period will mean that we have a phased ban on greyhound racing.

My question to you is this: hopefully we'll have that outcome—what will you do to secure the safety and protection of greyhounds that are on the racing track in Caerphilly, to ensure that they are protected during that period? Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour 2:09, 4 June 2024

Thank you for the question. I should say I am a dog owner myself; sometimes we feel that we're owned by the dog. But she's not a greyhound, but I understand they make fantastic family pets. But there is a point here about the broader welfare and what happens with those greyhounds that are bred for racing, whether they make it at racing greyhounds or not, and I know the concerns that are there. The Valley track is now part of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, so it has to meet external standards. We will continue to maintain an interest in what takes place there, regardless of the outcome of the consultation and the Government response.

The local authority don't have statutory responsibilities to inspect the track and understand animal welfare, but we do want to make sure that the GB-wide standards they only signed up to last year, when they joined the GB overarching body, are met. And I do take seriously the point the Member makes about the welfare whilst the sport continues for greyhounds in Wales and beyond and also what might happen if there's a different future, because I take very seriously the welfare of these wonderful animals. I will stop there, because otherwise I'll start talking about family history with greyhounds, which probably is beyond First Minister's questions.

Photo of Rhianon Passmore Rhianon Passmore Labour 2:10, 4 June 2024

First Minister, 2 June marks National Greyhound Day. It is a timely reminder that Wales is one of only 10 countries across the entire globe—this includes all UK nations—where commercial greyhound racing still takes place in 2024. Published results from races and trials at the Valley Greyhounds stadium, which sits within the Senedd seat of Islwyn, show that from 3 March to 29 May this year nine dogs were recorded as 'fell' and 15 were recorded as 'knocked over'. The welfare of these precious greyhounds that are fallen in races remains unknown. The Cut the Chase coalition, which consists of the highly respected RSPCA, Dogs Trust, Blue Cross, Hope Rescue and Greyhound Rescue Wales, have well documented the truly shocking lack of welfare shown in the greyhound racing industry for the welfare of the animals. First Minister, what timescales and what more details, then, can you give about the outcome of the 12-week consultation considering the future of greyhound racing, and when will that report to the Senedd? I also would like to pick up on the point of what is going to happen in the interim to those dogs and their welfare.

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour 2:12, 4 June 2024

Thank you for the question. Again, I understand the response the Member would like me to give, but I can't give it because we're going through the response to the consultation, but it is striking, the point the Member makes, that Wales is one of only 10 countries around the globe that still has commercial greyhound racing. We need to understand more about the welfare of the dogs, the standards that the Greyhound Board of Great Britain has for greyhounds to be able to make sure that they are met and that they undertake the welfare engagement they're supposed to, and we have to deal with the response to the consultation. Now, I can't give you an absolute time frame for when that will be published, but the Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs is leading the work on this; we will publish a summary of the responses, and we will publish a response from the Government about how we propose to take those matters forward. So, I'd ask Members on all sides to bear with us, to understand we're treating this seriously, with the significant volume of responses that shows a real interest in the issue, and we'll set out the Government's response as soon as we're able to. And again, I recognise the significant and very genuine and well-meant and kind-heartedly-felt concern on all sides of the Chamber.