NSW won’t review decision to allow ‘inhumane’ greyhound breeding technique
A “horrific” breeding technique used on racing greyhounds will not be banned because it would have a “significant” impact on the industry, the New South Wales government says.
Coalition draft legislation last year included a ban on surgical artificial insemination (SAI) in dogs, but the government “backflipped” and took it out before the final bill was drawn up.
SAI, which is used in about 80% of breeding for greyhounds, involves anaesthetising the animal, making an incision, then taking the uterus out to put sperm in it before replacing it and sewing the hole back up.
The Australian Veterinary Association describes it as an invasive, painful and “previously accepted” technique. The association says transcervical artificial insemination (TCI), which uses a catheter to introduce the sperm into the uterus, is less risky and painful, and has become more common and is as effective, if not more so than SAI.
The AVA has updated its policy and is now calling for surgical AI to be banned in dogs in all states and territories.
The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds president, Andrea Pollard, describes SAI as horrific and says NSW’s removal of the ban was “gutless and failed to respect veterinary science”.
“The Perrottet government is now on the record supporting an inhumane canine breeding procedure which is condemned by the AVA, the RSPCA and Australia’s independent veterinary group Sentient,” she said.
The NSW agriculture minister, Dugald Saunders, told an estimates committee last year he made the legislative change after consulting with veterinarians but only named Dubbo vet and frozen sperm pioneer John Newell. He said he had talked to other people and knew vets “personally” who didn’t have an issue with the procedures.
Greens MLC Abigail Boyd, in Senate estimates, asked Saunders if there was “perhaps a conflict of interest” consulting Newell because he had “made an absolute fortune from surgical artificial insemination of dogs as well as selling frozen semen”.
“The proposal was to ban it. [Then] you sort of backflipped on that or walked back on that decision,” she said. “When we asked you what grounds there were for walking it back, you said it was because you spoke to some vets. You’ve only told me the name of one vet, who happens to make a fortune out of this particular procedure.”
Saunders said it was a “rather large bow” to suggest a conflict of interest because vets make money from all sorts of different procedures.
In response to questions from Guardian Australia, Saunders said the government was “committed to ensuring animal welfare laws are fit-for-purpose for all people who live and work with animals in NSW”, and that people carrying out artificial insemination had to be registered.
“An immediate ban on surgical artificial insemination would have a significant impact on breeding greyhound racing dogs,” Saunders said.
“In January 2022, the NSW government released the draft Animal Welfare Bill 2022, which was developed following two rounds of public consultation, and attracted almost 6,000 responses … from stakeholders and the community.
“The release of the draft bill marked a third opportunity for stakeholders and the community to have their say in shaping animal welfare laws in NSW.”
Newell, when asked if the AVA’s policy shift would influence his view, said those who weren’t doing artificial insemination regularly were “probably not across some of the difficulties” and were being influenced by “emotive” animal welfare activists.
TCI has a place, he said, and it would “inevitably” become more common, but it wasn’t always possible because of the physiology of the dog.
“I don’t like being forced by legislators who’ve never even done frozen semen implants, because it’s not possible in every single case to pass a catheter,” he said. “There are times when you can’t do it.”
SAI is less invasive than desexing a female dog and comparable to keyhole surgery, Newell said, while many vets don’t have the training or the confidence to do TCI.
Asked whether he was the right person to advise the government, he said that it was a “reality of life” that vets make money.
“People want pups from semen from overseas,” he said.