At Least Barnaby Joyce Is Consistent When It Comes to His Cruelty To Dogs


With a simple amendment to legislation, Barnaby Joyce could end the cruelty inflicted on hundreds of Australian greyhounds every year. Instead, he does nothing, writes Jordan Sosnowski.

Whether it’s Johnny Depp’s dogs or Australian greyhounds, it seems our Agriculture Minister isn’t picky when it comes to his blatant disregard for our four-legged friends.

But it’s not just Pistol and Boo he’s ordered out of the country. Back in May, Barnaby Joyce became a global laughing-stock when he told Depp’s two beloved Yorkeshire terriers to bugger off overseas. And he’s effectively said the same to hundreds of Aussie greyhounds this year too.

Granted, the two breeds meet very different fates at the end of their plane trips. Pistol and Boo might get some pampering at a day spa after the long haul flight. Whereas most greyhounds are transported to concrete prison cells and within 3 years, suffer agonising deaths.

But at least you can’t call the minister out for being preferential. Far from it, Joyce’s disregard for the welfare of animals is consistent across the board.

2015 has seen some pretty terrible animal welfare issues come to light for the Australian government. There’s been myriad live export scandals (Kuwait, Vietnam, Israel), as well as the recent revelations of live-baiting within the greyhound industry.

Barnaby Joyce
Nationals MP, Barnaby Joyce. (IMAGE: Apple and Pear Australia Ltd, Flickr)

However, these issues have a common thread. Animal rights groups point out how cruel a practice is and then the industry (and the government) combat this with claims about our economy and jobs.

The conversation usually goes something like:

Animal welfare advocate: “Live export is cruel and causes sentient animals to suffer on long boat trips only to be slaughtered at the other end with no stunning and immense pain”.

Industry: “Live export brings in millions of dollars every year to Australia and to stop now would put thousands of Australian farmers out of work.”

Government: “Live export brings in millions of dollars every year to Australia and to stop now would put thousands of Australian farmers out of work.”

But in relation to the exporting of greyhounds overseas, it’s a very rare case where the peak racing body and animal welfare activists actually agree.

The conversation went something like:

Animal welfare advocate: “Exporting greyhounds overseas is a death sentence and we need government to step in and put a stop to it”.

Industry: “Exporting greyhounds overseas is a death sentence and we need government to step in and put a stop to it”.

Government: “We don’t have any control over what happens in other countries”.

(IMAGE: Andrew Thackway, Flickr)
(IMAGE: Andrew Thackway, Flickr)

Here we’ve finally got an issue where animal advocates and industry see eye to eye, but the minister has decided all bets are off.

He’s not honoring any prior agreement to actually care about animal welfare, even though it’s meant to be part of his job description.

It’s all well and good to shift the blame and commiserate the fact there’s no animal welfare laws in China. But the sad truth is that the poor dogs wouldn’t be there in the first place if it weren’t for the Australian government allowing the export.

More than 500 Australian greyhounds were exported to Asia this year, and the majority die within 3 years. Those dogs deemed “too slow” in Australia are exported to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Macau and other parts of China.

For the past 10 years, the national racing body, Greyhounds Australasia (GA), has called on the federal government to close the export loophole. In a letter pleading with Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon, GA outlines that greyhounds are exported without industry approval to banned destinations, but with the sanction of the federal government.

new matilda, joel fitzgibbon
Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon.

Minister Joyce could make one small change to the Export Control Act and terrible suffering wouldn’t be taking place. All that needs to happen to stop this, is for “greyhound passports” to be made mandatory under Commonwealth legislation.

Anyone who’s seen the shocking footage recently obtained by undercover investigators of greyhounds in Vietnam being tortured to death with insecticide will agree that this is a no brainer.

As someone that works in the animal law sector, I can tell you that when industry and animal welfare advocates are telling government the same advice, it’s a “pigs are actually flying” kind of moment.

But here we have that rare sight and Barnaby won’t even take a glimpse.

It’s appalling to see animal cruelty here in Australia. It’s terrible to see it happen overseas. But these are evils we have sadly come to expect and are willing to fight against industry to amend.

What is truly shocking is that in their response to the issue of greyhound export, the economics of industry and the ethics of animal welfare align. And the government isn’t just doing nothing about the issue, it’s aiding and abetting horrific cruelty.

In allowing the export of hundreds of greyhounds to Asia, the minister isn’t just telling these animals to “bugger off”, he’s signing a death warrant for each and every one of them.

Jordan is the Advocacy Director at Melbourne-based organisation Australia for Dolphins. She graduated from Monash University with a Master of Laws, Juris Doctor. Jordan was admitted as a lawyer in NSW in 2013 and is an Associate Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.