Before we start, if anybody is in any doubt, the person with four legs in the Gallery is a registered PAT dog—Pets As Therapy—and she is there with the Chairman’s consent.
I beg to move,
That this House has considered e-petition 554073, relating to greyhound racing.
It is always a pleasure to serve under you as Chair, Sir Roger. The Petitions Committee has asked me to open this debate. The petition closed on 30 April 2021 with 104,885 signatures. It asks that the UK Government
introduce legislation to abolish greyhound racing, via a managed shutdown of activities, and ensure the welfare of redundant dogs through a levy on the industry.
The petitioner wishes to remain anonymous; the words I speak this evening are his/her words. The petitioner asserts that the welfare of greyhounds is not adequately protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006, GBGB—the Greyhound Board of Great Britain—or any independent body, and that greyhounds endure unavoidable suffering on dangerously configured tracks, are raced in extreme weather and are housed in kennels that have not been independently inspected.
An early-day motion was tabled on 16 December 2021 acknowledging and supporting the petition. The UK Government responded to the petition on 26 November 2020. The petitioner told me that greyhound racing uses thousands of greyhounds as a global, online betting shop commodity, and that spectators at racing tracks are not needed, because racing is livestreamed.
Pressure from animal welfare charities and campaigners resulted in GBGB being required to publish annual data of greyhounds injured, rehomed and euthanised for humane or economic reasons. However, the Dogs Trust and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have questioned the accuracy of the data, because different datasets have been used for different years, making direct annual comparisons difficult. The data is not broken down to track level, preventing remedial action if required at a particular track.
The total recorded number of GBGB greyhounds injured annually since 2017 is 4,837 in 2017, 4,963 in 2018, 4,970 in 2019, and 3,507 in 2020. The number of those put to sleep on humane or economic grounds is 605 in 2017, 566 in 2018, 472 in 2019, and 224 in 2020. The petitioner found that greyhounds that were recorded as being in rescue centres or as rehomed as a pet were actually still racing. The dual system of having GBGB-registered tracks and independent tracks does not work, because greyhounds are raced at both tracks.
GBGB data records some greyhounds as retired, but the petitioner says that some of those are sold or given away to race on the three independent tracks. The petitioner spoke to me about insufficient enforcement of the Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations 2010 by local authority trading standards departments due to lack of welfare inspections at tracks, because many councils are under-resourced and because schooling tracks and breeding facilities fall outside these regulations.
The petitioner believes that the GBGB reform programme, greyhound commitment, does not go far enough. GBGB statistics reveal a minor fluctuation, rather than a sustained improvement, in the percentage of racing dogs being injured. The figures were 1.19% in 2017, 1.16% in 2018, 1.21% in 2019, and 1.12% in 2020.
The petitioner referred me to section 3.1 of Dr Andrew Knight’s “Injuries in racing greyhounds” report from 2018, with which I am sure Members are familiar. The salient point is that races are run anticlockwise, so most injuries occur on the left foreleg and the right hind leg, because when negotiating a bend in the track, the left foreleg is used as a pivot, with claws digging into the ground, whereas the right hind leg moves in an arc, providing the primary propulsive force. The greyhound skeleton adapts by reabsorbing calcium from other bodily areas, resulting in spongy or honeycombed bone composition, which contributes to track injuries.
On the suggestion of the petitioner, I visited Hope Rescue, a centre run by Vanessa Waddon, so that I could listen to the practical realities of rehoming injured and surplus greyhounds. Hope Rescue is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Chris Elmore), who wanted to be here but has parliamentary duties elsewhere. Vanessa is in the Public Gallery this evening. We also have with us Suzy the greyhound, who has already been mentioned by you, Sir Roger, and who is representing Greyhounds as Pets and Pets as Therapy—I hope I have got that right.
Hope Rescue is named after Last Hope, a greyhound found abandoned on a Caerphilly mountain in 2004, having been shot with a captive bolt gun. Both his ears had been hacked off to hide identifying ear tattoos. Last Hope was still alive, and his finder reported that he was still wagging his tail, but he had to be put to sleep. This cruel story inspired Vanessa to become involved in greyhound rescue, and she set up Hope Rescue, which is an all-breed rescue centre.
Move forward 17 years and Hope Rescue is supporting the UK campaign, and the campaign in Wales, to ban greyhound racing because of welfare concerns and the prospect of increased greyhound racing when Wales’s only independent track, Valley track, becomes a GBGB track. Hope Rescue started its Amazing Greys project at Valley track in April 2018 in order to provide emergency rescue spaces and vet care for injured and surplus greyhounds before they were transferred to one of Hope Rescue’s partners—the Dogs Trust, Greyhound Rescue Wales and the Forever Hounds Trust—although some dogs were rehomed directly from Hope Rescue. Between April 2018 and August 2021, the project took in over 200 greyhounds that had been surrendered because their owners or trainers had links with Valley track. They included over 40 greyhounds that had sustained serious injuries—mostly fractures—through racing at Valley track. Sadly, five greyhounds did not survive their injuries. Many greyhounds had old, undiagnosed injuries, lameness, other health problems such as dental, skin, fleas and worms, and behavioural problems such as anxiety and fear.
After publicly sharing the petition, Vanessa was told that Hope Rescue was no longer welcome at the Valley track, so the fate of current surplus and injured greyhounds from Valley track is sadly unknown. Although Valley track is an independent track, Vanessa told me that her project revealed the strong links between the regulated GBGB sector and independent tracks. Some 67% of injured greyhounds at Valley track were GBGB greyhounds. Vanessa and the project’s volunteers were heartbroken to witness those greyhounds in so much shock and pain when receiving emergency treatment from Hope Rescue’s vets. There were no vets at Valley track.
The majority of the injuries were broken legs, including snapped bones going straight through the skin. One dog had the skin degloved from her leg, down to the bone, when she collided with the hare, and more fractures to her skull, face and ribs due to the collision. Sadly, she did not survive.
Valley track advertises its “eye-watering sharp first bend” on its website, and Vanessa witnessed most injuries occurring on that first bend. However, the greyhounds try to continue to the end of the race, because that is what they are trained to do. Vanessa believes it is unacceptable that the risk of these beautiful dogs suffering an injury—or even dying—is disregarded by the industry as collateral damage. As she can testify, behind every injury and death statistic is a beautiful, sentient dog, which will have endured immense suffering.
Vanessa told me that animal welfare charities are currently experiencing unprecedented demand and pressures due to the huge surge in pet ownership during the pandemic. On the day I visited, Hope Rescue had 216 dogs in its care, including some seized from illegal breeders, stray dogs, and dogs surrendered by their owners. Rehoming surplus greyhounds is an additional pressure on rescue centres, in both cost and capacity, created by the welfare deficiencies in the greyhound racing industry.
The dilemma facing rescue centres is that they do not want to stop taking in racing greyhounds, even though it would free up thousands of additional rescue spaces and improve welfare for the wider dog population and their owners, because who would otherwise look after the greyhounds?
Vanessa recognises that GBGB has introduced some recent financial schemes, including the injury recovery scheme, which provides a 50% grant, up to a maximum of £2,000, for certain injuries, and a £400 retirement bond. However, those financial incentives cover only a portion of the true costs and resources necessary for rehoming surplus and injured greyhounds as companion pets. Vanessa believes that the need for an injury recovery scheme speaks volumes about the welfare issues caused by greyhound racing. Resources should not be needed to fix broken legs, because legs should not be broken in the first place.
Hope Rescue launched a petition to ban greyhound racing in Wales in September 2021, and within a week it had secured the 10,000-signature threshold to be considered for a debate. The petition had cross-party support in the Senedd from Jane Dodds, leader of the Welsh Lib Dems, Luke Fletcher of Plaid Cymru, and Carolyn Thomas of Labour, along with support from rescue centres across the UK. The petition closed on 1 March 2022 with 35,101 signatures, and was discussed by the Senedd’s Petitions Committee on 7 March. The Committee agreed to proceed with a call for evidence, to be followed by a debate in the Senedd.
The petitioner stresses that public attitudes to greyhound racing are changing. In the UK, there were once 77 GBGB-licensed tracks and 200 independent tracks; today, 20 licenced and three unlicensed tracks remain. Greyhound racing to satisfy the needs of, and create profits for, the betting industry is being recognised as an animal welfare and gambling addiction problem. Some 99% of British greyhound bets are placed online or at betting offices, so it is unlikely that that money remains in the local economy.
Increased regulation may offer a temporary solution and may marginally increase the welfare of greyhounds while they are racing, but the significant number of injuries, deaths, and surplus greyhounds needing rescue spaces requires a long-term strategy. A sustainable solution to the welfare problems is needed. The petitioner and Vanessa strongly feel that a ban is the only solution. A ban can be achieved immediately in Scotland and Wales due to the low number of tracks, but in England a ban should be phased in to ensure that displaced greyhounds can be accommodated and the infrastructure will be dismantled over time.
Hope Rescue recently commissioned a YouGov poll, which showed that 45% of the public support a ban, 17% oppose a ban, and 38% are unsure or do not support either option. The foundation of any welfare strategy is that prevention is better than cure. The petitioner and Vanessa humbly request a meeting with the Minister to discuss how the UK Government can progress the proposal to abolish greyhound racing.
I commend the hon. Member for Neath (Christina Rees) for rising to the challenge and leading this important and sensitive debate about the future of greyhound racing in this country. I listened to everything she said and sympathise with many of her points. All of us present are animal lovers and care for the welfare of greyhounds and all animals that we have a duty of care towards. There is much common ground in what we are discussing today. However, there are differences of opinion about how we approach the issue and ensure the best for greyhounds and those associated with the greyhound industry in this country.
I am pleased to contribute to the debate, and I do so as co-chairman of the all-party parliamentary greyhound group. I am proud to do so alongside the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery). I am also a vice-president of the Greyhound Trust, which works tirelessly for the welfare of greyhounds and their rehoming once their racing days are over. Of course, I am the MP for Romford, home of Essex and London’s premier greyhound stadium, which has been there for many years.
I fully support all those calling for the highest possible welfare standards in the sport of greyhound racing. No one wants to see animals being injured or harmed. We all want to see the best possible care and attention for those dogs, and it is right that we fight for that. I also support the continuation of greyhound racing as a traditional sport in this country, provided that we strive to keep improving welfare standards for greyhounds. I want to restate my unequivocal support for animal health and welfare in greyhound racing. I have always been passionate about this issue, as I am for all issues relating to animal welfare—as the Minister knows only too well. Indeed, this is not a matter that I take lightly at all. I have always fought for animal welfare throughout the United Kingdom since my election as a Member of Parliament, and I will continue to do so. I am open-minded; where things are wrong, they need to be called out, but we need to do that in an evolving way.
There is no denying that welfare standards in greyhound racing have not always been at the level we would want to see, but I believe the answer must be building on the great progress that has been made, certainly in the last 20 years since I have been involved as an MP, rather than banning the sport altogether. Some 15 years ago, I was appointed by the then Leader of the Opposition as the shadow Home Affairs Minister responsible for animal welfare, so I worked on this particular issue at that time. I worked with numerous animal welfare organisations at a national and international level to secure the health and welfare of all animals, especially dogs and greyhounds.
Since then, I have continued my work as an animal welfare champion in Parliament through my role as chairman of both the APPG on zoos and aquariums and the all-party parliamentary greyhound group, and through my private Member’s Bill, the Animal (Penalty Notices) Bill, which will introduce penalties for individuals who have cruelly mistreated pets, zoo animals and livestock—which, of course, includes greyhounds. As hon. Members know, I approach this issue with a genuine desire to improve the lives of the greyhounds and to ensure that their welfare is properly secured.
Our society is rightly judged by how it treats the animals in its care, and that care must go for racing dogs, too. I have therefore worked to support the Greyhound Trust, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, the Dogs Trust and all the other organisations that work tirelessly for the welfare of animals.
Despite the concerns that many members of the public have expressed, which are shared by many Members of this House, I nevertheless feel confident to state my support for the continuation of greyhound racing. I believe that, when appropriately regulated and properly managed, the practice can ensure the health and welfare of the greyhounds.
My hon. Friend is indeed an animal welfare champion in this House and has been for a long time, and I share his passion for animals. Is it not correct that many of the statistics on the welfare of greyhounds—such as the number of injuries or the number of greyhounds successfully housed after retirement—show the movement is all in the right direction? There is still work to be done, but are we not moving in the right direction?
My hon. Friend is completely right. I would not be here today if I did not think that we were going in the right direction. There is absolutely a huge amount of work to do, and we should champion that work and make sure it continues to go in the right direction. If it does not, we will all be deeply upset; we probably will not defend the sport as we are doing today. However, things are going in the right direction because, I believe, GBGB is now taking the issue seriously.
There is still an enormous amount of work to do. We need an evolution, rather than just bringing in arbitrary bans that often do not work. Such bans can have the opposite effect, as has happened in other parts of the world. I share the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson). Let me be clear: my absolute priority is the welfare of the dogs, which I will continue to argue for in this House.
Greyhound racing is one of the most popular spectator sports in the United Kingdom. Coming from Romford, I am aware of that. The huge number of local people from all over east London and Essex who come to Romford greyhound stadium love the greyhounds. They do not just come to watch them race; they adore the greyhounds and raise a lot of money for their welfare at Romford stadium. There are 20 licensed stadiums in the UK, which generate multimillion pound revenues and employ 7,000 local people.
In the year of the Queen’s platinum jubilee, I want to also highlight that greyhound racing is an historic British tradition. The greyhound is the first breed of dog mentioned in literature. Greyhound racing reached the height of its popularity after world war one, when it provided an affordable day out for British working people. Let us be honest: it was a pastime for working people and, certainly in my constituency, it still is.
I am proud that the people of Romford continue this age-old tradition, which they balance with their love for the dogs and concern for animal welfare. I see it all the time. They do not have disregard for the animals—they would hate the idea of an animal being ill-treated. They would not go to watch greyhound racing if they thought there was arbitrary cruelty going on. As I have said, we need an evolution to a better place.
I am proud that my constituents regularly go to see the greyhounds racing at the London Road stadium in Romford. It is important that we do not take this institution away from my constituents and those across the country who participate in the sport by regularly watching the greyhounds and raising money to support the welfare of greyhounds in this country. Those people take great pride in breeding, racing and caring for their dogs. Greyhounds are active dogs that are bred for high-impact exercise. They enjoy having a purpose on the racecourses and receiving attention in the stadium. I see that they really love the attention and they enjoy what they do.
Vets have stated that greyhounds need regular high-impact exercise to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. They derive that from the tracks, during training and in the kennels. On the issue of kennels, I accept the point made by the hon. Member for Neath; we need more inspections and more veterinary attention in kennels. Let us go there too. Let us not ignore what goes on in the kennels. It is not just about the tracks. The kennels need the same level of scrutiny.
As chair of the all-party parliamentary greyhound group, I believe it is important that we understand that greyhound welfare must be at the heart of the sport. We must do everything we can to safeguard the wellbeing of the dogs. Greyhound racing in the UK is regulated by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, which states that greyhound safety and welfare is at the heart of everything it does. That means that races must be strictly regulated to protect animal welfare.
Greyhounds must be rehomed after retirement and funding from racing used directly to contribute to greyhound welfare. A lot more needs to be done to contribute to the rehoming of the greyhounds after their racing days are over, particularly by the bookmakers. I believe that we need to pressure bookmakers more strongly to get a greater contribution to the welfare of the greyhounds in retirement.
GBGB has made a series of commitments to greyhound welfare. It has a zero-tolerance policy against any individual found to have mistreated a greyhound in any way. Its measures include issuing licence suspensions, fines and lifetime bans from the sport; ensuring a vet is present at every race and that every greyhound is inspected before and after racing to ensure that no greyhound will race if the vet has concerns; maximising track safety to ensure that the UK’s track injury rate is the lowest in the world; requiring the highest standards of welfare at trainers’ kennels; and, finally, ensuring that racing greyhounds enjoy long and healthy retirements.
Since September 2020, GBGB has paid more than £2 million to help home over 5,000 greyhounds, and that comes on top of the work of other organisations and small local groups. I know about the work done by the Romford Greyhound Owners’ Association Trust for Retired Racing Greyhounds. I know that many different groups across the country are working tirelessly to ensure that dogs are rehomed, loved and cared for in their later years.
I have also heard great stories about how GBGB has been working with Battersea Dogs & Cats Home to ensure that greyhounds are rehomed. I hope that continues, along with its work with other dog welfare organisations. Through the measures I mentioned, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain has lowered the fatality and injury rate for greyhounds more than ever and successfully rehomed more greyhounds than we have ever seen before. We are going in the right direction, and we must keep that going ever stronger. There will be cross-party support for increasing that welfare across the country, because we all love animals and want the best for them.
Animal welfare is and always will be my primary concern in this debate. The Greyhound Board of Great Britain has been able to deliver an excellent programme of animal welfare and will continue to strive for even stronger measures to secure the welfare of the dogs in future. It has done that through its regulation of races and commitment to provide funding for veterinary treatment for greyhounds and by offering a home to the retired dogs.
Greyhound racing is an important British tradition that, when conducted properly, is fully compatible with animal welfare considerations. However, we must go further. A ban would result in thousands of jobs being sacrificed, millions of pounds lost to Her Majesty’s Treasury, areas of deprivation losing yet another community asset, and thousands of fit, healthy and much-loved greyhound racing dogs being left with no direct means of support. That is not the answer at this stage. We have to work together to ensure that further improvements are made and the welfare of the animals is given the utmost priority without going for a sudden ban, which would lead to unintended consequences for the welfare of the dogs.
For these reasons—with the proviso that welfare standards must continue to be improved—I believe we must allow the continuation of the sport in the United Kingdom. I look forward to the Minister’s response to all the important points that Members have made, because I know that the Government are dedicated to animal welfare and to the highest possible standards in greyhound racing.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I fully support most of the comments by the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) about the continuation of greyhound racing.
The debate is very welcome, and should in no way be confrontational. The priority of everyone, regardless of their view, should be the health and welfare of greyhounds—the most lovable, intelligent animals we will ever come across. Some of the tales that my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Christina Rees) mentioned are harrowing. We hear tales of greyhounds having received some of the most terrible treatment. It happens—I am not saying that it does not—but there are bad apples everywhere. We need to ensure that welfare standards and the investment in the welfare of these wonderful animals is increased.
I must say a massive thanks to the GBGB and the British Greyhound Racing Fund, and to the people who sent me information knowing that the debate would take place this afternoon, including the RSPCA, Dogs Trust, and individuals who might have a different view from mine. I am happy to listen to everything that everybody says about to the welfare of these wonderful animals, because it is important.
I have been involved in greyhound racing for 40 years. I have always had greyhounds. I have never met one person anywhere—not one—who wants to see any harm to these wonderful dogs. We talk about rules and regulations, and about banning people. Listen, if anybody in my area got caught doing anything against this wonderful breed of animal, they would be banished from the community—and it has happened. The common denominator among us all, in debating the petition today, is that we support increased investment in welfare, and that should be our priority.
My interest in greyhound racing—people call it an industry or a sport—reaches back to my days in the mining industry. We had whippets and greyhounds. Quite often, they were looked after better than some of the family. That is the reality of it: communities looked after these wonderful animals. I have been involved with greyhounds at different tracks up and down the country, and in Ireland, Wales and Scotland. It is a most enjoyable sport that I was involved in for quite some time. I went to different tracks with greyhounds, and they were all looked after better than my own kids. The notion that such dogs are abused, killed and battered to bits on a regular basis is very much outdated.
As the hon. Member for Romford pointed out, the statistics are heading in the right direction. That is not to say that we should rest on our laurels, because we have to continue with the investment in greyhound welfare, as I have mentioned a number of times. I have been to many trainers’ kennels—not 10, but 20, 30 or 40—and I have not yet been to a bad one, which might be my good luck. The kennels that I have been to are clean enough to eat food off the floor. The food that the greyhounds get is good enough for a human. I have spent hours, if not days or weeks, at the wonderful kennels of the legendary Harry Williams, a British breeder and greyhound trainer. Harry has just retired, probably for the third or fourth time. When he retired, he had more retired greyhounds than racing dogs in his kennels, because he loved the dogs so much.
There is a massive issue with how dogs are transported from kennels to the track. We need to look at those sorts of things and continue to keep the pressure on to make sure that things are as good, if not better, than they are anywhere else in the world. A lot of tracks used to be in a state of disrepair, and the majority have closed. We have only 20 licensed GBGB tracks in operation now, and I think there are three independents, which are non-licensed and not governed by GBGB. The tracks have improved dramatically through investment in welfare for the dogs.
I take issue with individuals or groups talking about injuries, because greyhounds want to run. They are bred to run, and not in straight lines. Greyhounds will get injuries, as will hounds or any type of dog that loves to run, particularly at high speed. However, I agree with everything that has been said about trying our damnedest to eradicate injuries at greyhound tracks. If that means investment in the tracks, so be it. We have to try to do everything we can for these wonderful animals.
I do not want the debate to be about facts and figures, because it should be about how we can continue to improve the welfare of racing greyhounds, and the hon. Member for Romford has already mentioned a number of facts and figures. However, it is worth mentioning the injury data since GBGB’s commitment. The total number of injuries sustained at GBGB tracks in 2018 was 4,963; it is now 3,575. In 2018, the injury rate against total dogs run was 1.16 and is now 1.12. The total number of fatalities at GBGB tracks in 2018 was 242 and is now 200. The numbers are heading in the right direction. Although we are getting better and better at what we do, we cannot rest on our laurels. We need to continue to get better.
There are great statistics in the retirement data since the launch of the GBGB commitment. In 2018, the total number of greyhounds that were successfully homed or retained in the sport after retirement was 6,773, or 83%. In 2020, that figure stands at 7,089, which represents 95% of all greyhounds leaving the sport. That is an amazing result. I have been involved for an awfully long time, and 95% of the dogs being rehomed is fantastic progress—what a brilliant achievement. A lot of that is thanks to the hard work of Vanessa and others in facilities for retired greyhounds up and down this country, where volunteers do fantastic work looking after and rehoming the animals. Some of them are tricky to rehome because people cannot just go and pick up a greyhound—they need to understand that greyhounds have different characters.
It is worth noting that the trainers are not millionaires; they are not in it to make fortunes, and if they are, they will not succeed. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of kennel hands—young men and women—looking after the greyhounds as if they were their own kids, working all hours to ensure their health, safety and welfare, often at personal cost. Let us be honest: a lot of those young people do not really have great career paths, but they dedicate themselves to the greyhounds they look after. Greyhound racing is not something where people can get involved and become millionaires; it is quite the opposite—their finances normally take a dive.
It is important that we recognise and listen to everybody’s views. The statistics vary quite a lot depending on who writes them, so we need to dig into them to get a good idea of what is happening. The GBGB is developing a new long-term strategy for greyhound welfare in five important areas: welfare, nutrition, behaviour, health and mental state, which we have already discussed—that is a fantastic initiative. Let us hope that, at its conclusion, the strategy, which has the classic name “A Good Life for Every Greyhound”, proves to have been beneficial to everyone in the great sport of greyhound racing.
I do not want a fight with anybody about this issue. I fully support the people in my community and across this country who want greyhound racing to continue. I agree with every single person who has ideas for increasing the welfare of greyhounds. The GBGB and the other organisations cannot rest on their laurels. Some individuals say that greyhounds should be afforded the same sort of protections as other breeds, but when we look at the support for extra protections for the breed—whether we agree with the continuation of greyhound racing or not—it is absolutely amazing.
I genuinely think it is important that we continue fighting for better welfare for every single one of these wonderful dogs. I have had some fast dogs and some very slow ones, but they are beautiful. I have cherished and loved every single one of them for what they are, not for how fast they run.
I call the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
Not only is it a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger, but it is very apt that you are chairing this debate, because you have a huge record on animal welfare. I know you take it extremely seriously, so it is good to serve under your chairmanship. I thank the hon. Member for Neath (Christina Rees) for presenting the petition and the facts. This is turning out to be a very good and thoughtful debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) has also put a great deal of effort into all aspects of animal welfare, but particularly greyhound racing. It was great to hear what he had to say, and to hear the great passion that the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) has for greyhound racing. He has had greyhounds himself, and they are beautiful dogs.
We have to remember that 104,000 people have signed the petition, so we have to take it seriously. I want to talk a little about the EFRA Committee’s 2016 inquiry and what we found. There is no doubt that the welfare of racing greyhounds is covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations 2010. The 2006 Act allows action to be taken where there is cruelty to an animal or failure to provide for animal welfare needs. Those provisions apply where greyhounds are at tracks or kept at trainers’ kennels. Animal welfare standards at all English greyhound tracks are set by the 2010 regulations.
The regulations require that all greyhound tracks have a vet present while dogs are running and that vets inspect all greyhounds to ensure that they are fit to run, including in extreme weather. Temperature-controlled kennelling must also be provided at the track, and greyhounds must be microchipped and tattooed. A Government review found that the regulations had proved effective in improving the welfare of greyhounds at the track, and the traceability. However, it also found that much more needed to be done, and when I get to the findings of our inquiry I will ask the Minister about various things that I think need to be improved. There is a need to improve conditions not only at the track, in terms of kennelling, but with trainers. There is also the professional trainer and the professional who keeps greyhounds, and they may have a number of them. Those people need to be looked at very carefully to make sure that the welfare of the greyhounds is good. Some greyhounds are kept by people as pets, but they race. They are looked after extremely well but, again, we need to check because, as the hon. Member for Wansbeck said, we have to make sure what, whatever rules and regulations are in place, we come down heavily on those who do not comply.
There has been improved transparency: GBGB agreed to publish annual statistics on injuries, retirements and dog euthanasia. That is a big issue. At these tracks, is it that the dog cannot be kept alive and cannot have its injuries put right, or is that dog uneconomical? I believe the gambling industry must pay much more towards the rehoming of these dogs and ensuring that the injuries that dogs sustain can be put right.
There is no doubt that the statistics are going in the right direction. If we look at the total deaths, not just at the tracks, there were 932 in 2018, 710 in 2019 and 411 in 2020. But 411 dogs are still too many—there is no doubt about that. We have to look at how to improve that situation. The publication of the stats was accompanied by the introduction of the GBGB’s greyhound commitment, which set targets to reduce track injuries. Some tracks are very difficult to alter. I agree with the hon. Member for Wansbeck that kept greyhounds like to race and run, but we need to ensure that if there are problems with the track, the bends or whatever, they can be ironed out. Nothing should be off limits.
The GBGB also introduced an injury recovery scheme, which enables the treatment and rehoming of 500 dogs with career-ending injuries who otherwise would have been put to sleep. In September 2020, the GBGB introduced a greyhound retirement scheme, with a £400 bond paid jointly by the owner and the GBGB, which goes towards rehoming costs at the end of a dog’s racing life. The GBGB has already paid out over £70,000 in bond payments to improve rehoming centres.
To support the GBGB’s efforts to improve welfare, in January 2019 the Government announced an increased funding commitment from bookmakers. In 2019-20, the British greyhound racing fund collected £8.87 million from bookmakers, up from £6.95 million in the previous 12 months. The Government continue to encourage any remaining bookmakers who have not signed up to the voluntary arrangement to do so. I say to the Minister that any gambling authorities that will not pay up should be named and shamed. They cannot earn money from racing greyhounds if the greyhound race does not take place. The money that they earn when the bet is placed on greyhounds comes entirely from that industry. All aspects of the betting industry must pay up. However difficult it may be—or however difficult they say it may be—-they should pay much more money. I would like to see the amount of money raised doubled. It is not impossible to do that.
In horse-racing, there is a statutory levy, where the bookmakers pay 10% of profits made from horse-racing bets. A compulsory 10% versus a voluntary 0.6% is a huge difference. The horse-racing levy raises £95 million—naturally, it is a bigger industry. Many of us want a very regulated industry but one that continues. However, if it is to continue, that money must be raised from the gambling sector to ensure that greyhounds are properly rehomed and not euthanised when they could be saved and have a good life thereafter.
When we did our 2006 report, we looked at the traceability of greyhounds through their lives. The Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015 made microchipping dogs, including racing greyhounds, a legal requirement. As Members will know, one of the drawbacks with microchipping is that we still do not really have a central database, so once a dog changes hands, it is necessary to go back to the original owners and trace that dog back. There is much more we can do in that area—as we know, many greyhounds are bred in Ireland, and traceability is hugely important. Also, if a greyhound is going to race, it is not just about speed; we want greyhounds to be robust and their limbs to be strong. All those things need to be taken into consideration when we breed dogs for racing.
I cannot stress enough the importance of making sure we check the tracks and the vets on those tracks. We went to a GBGB track and to a non-GBGB track, and in all honesty, I was expecting to come away from both of those tracks being far more critical than I was. There is still much to be done, and when a Select Committee turns up to a racetrack, we have to ask whether it has been prepared for us in advance—we have to see through what we are given—but I think the tracks and the veterinary side have improved, and much of it is going in the right direction. My conclusion would be that we need to make sure the betting fraternity pays its dues—twice as much as it is paying at the moment. Let us make sure that inspections of the tracks take place and that the vets on those tracks are trained—I believe they are, but they must be. Those vets must be present at all times so that when they weigh the greyhounds and check them over before they race, they know that those greyhounds are in good condition and are ready to race.
If there is a problem or an injury, let us make sure that all those greyhounds who can be saved are saved, so that they can have a good life afterwards. Greyhounds make great pets in their future lives and, ironically, although they like to run fast, they do not need that much exercise. They are very good-tempered dogs: when we take our Labrador around Battersea Park, we very often meet a greyhound or two, and they are always a very gentle animal. I think we are all clear about the need for rehoming, including the welfare organisations—the Dogs Trust, the RSPCA, the Blue Cross—and everybody who is working on this, including GBGB and all the little voluntary groups across the country that have been referred to that rehome greyhounds. There is one such group in my constituency, and all those organisations aim to do a good job, but I stress again that, while it is always laudable to raise money from individuals to help rehome greyhounds, I still believe that enough money is being made from betting in the greyhound industry for that rehoming to be properly funded.
We need to use today’s petition as an opportunity to look at these issues. Ministers will know that, as Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, I take a very independent view of life. On this issue, I come down on the Government’s side because I believe that greyhound racing should not be banned, but I also believe that it should be tightened up, that those betting organisations should pay their dues and that the Minister should bring in all those organisations and make sure they cough up the money. Let us make sure that the right greyhounds are bred and racing in future. As the hon. Member for Wansbeck said, where there are rotten apples, let us root them out, because we cannot and must not have greyhounds being ill-treated.
This petition is timely. The Government and the industry will need to take it very seriously. I thank the charities for the work that they do. As I have said, let us use this as a very positive approach in order to ensure that the welfare of the greyhound is much improved.
I remind the Front Benchers that it would be a courtesy to allow Christina Rees a couple of minutes at the end to wind up the debate.
It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I thank my good friend the hon. Member for Neath (Christina Rees) for securing today’s debate on greyhound racing. The petition, which received about 105,000 signatures, is to ban greyhound racing and ensure that the welfare of redundant dogs is, via a levy on the industry, absolutely adhered to. May I say how apt it is that the hon. Member for Neath, a person who is absolutely steeped in sport and who understands and appreciates the benefits and value of sport, brings this sport in front of MPs for our attention and debate? I thought her speech was enlightening.
MPs across the room have made excellent points and raised concerns about the welfare of these beautiful animals. I, too, sympathise with the petition—I thank the 160 people from my own constituency of Falkirk who signed it, even though they do not have a dog track in their area—and its merits, aims and ambitions. Who would not do so when they read about the cruelty inflicted on the animals in this so-called sport? Why would we not have sympathy for them?
Sir Roger, let me take you back a wee while. May I take you back in time some 60 years to when, as a young boy growing up in Denny, I and my friends would sneak along to the local dog track? All innocent and all exciting it was, too, to watch these magnificent animals run. Then, as we grew, we started to learn a wee bit more about how the greyhounds were actually treated—including how they were fed a pie before the race to prevent them from running so fast. Goodness knows what else they were being fed or injected with. And of course, when their usefulness was done, they were cruelly destroyed.
We probably did not know any better at the time, so what has improved? There are certainly fewer tracks now. The British Greyhound Racing Fund has awarded, as other hon. Members have said, more than £1 million to improve the racing tracks and welfare. The Greyhound Trust has received approximately £1.4 million to home retired greyhounds. That all sounds good and it leaves us wondering why, if greyhounds are such wonderful pets, there is such a problem with finding them homes. The answer is simple: it is down to the sheer number of dogs involved in greyhound racing. More than 30,000 dogs are surplus to requirements each year. In 2020, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain recorded, if my figures are correct—I think they are—3,575 injuries. In 2018, 324 greyhounds were destroyed; no home could be found for them. In 2019, 14 greyhounds a week died; they were destroyed because of injuries sustained while racing.
In Scotland, the welfare of greyhounds is covered by devolved legislation under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, but significantly there is no statutory legislation on greyhound racing in Scotland. Only two greyhound tracks are currently operating in Scotland. Thornton Greyhounds, in Kirkcaldy, is an unlicensed flapping track, and Shawfield greyhound stadium is licensed under the GBGB. In August 2019, the Glasgow track reduced its activity to a single night of racing per week—there were simply not enough dogs, I am told, to make up two nights’ racing. The position was similar at Thornton. It seems evident that racing greyhound numbers are at their lowest in Scotland, at least, and the sport is on its last legs.
The Greyhound Board of Great Britain is the body responsible for the governance, regulation and management of the sport of licensed greyhound racing in England, Scotland and Wales, but oddly, the regulations on the welfare of the greyhounds do not apply to independent tracks. I find that quite odd. Could the Minister please confirm whether that is true?
The Scottish Government do not currently have plans to ban greyhound racing, but they are very much aware of the Animal Welfare Commission’s interest on this vexatious business. I want to finish up with this letter I received on greyhound racing from Marie, a Falkirk constituent of mine. I am grateful to her for sending such a thoughtful and knowledgeable insight into why we are debating this. Marie said:
“I adopted Morag when she was five and a half. Out of all the wonderful, excited and noisy dogs in the Greyhound Rescue Fife’s kennels that day, Morag was just lying there looking at me with her huge brown eyes. My heart went out to her. She had a rotten life. I’ll never know whether she was just born terrified or whether her early experiences made her that way. Ironically, her racing name was “Honour and Love”, but I saw no signs of her ever having been honoured or loved. She didn’t know anything about the world outside of racetracks. She had never slept on anything except straw and probably old newspapers. Shut up and locked up in a crate for most of the day and night, Morag bears the scars of her racing career—not just mentally, but in the form of ugly, large blackheads on her abdomen, a nasty scar on her face and the loss of 17 teeth.”
Many breeders and trainers do not bother to take care of the hounds’ teeth. Why? It is because they will not have them long enough to have to deal with the resulting decay from the negligence. That happened at Doncaster and Nottingham racetracks. Bookmakers, as the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) said, have a lot of money to put into their sport. They are taking a lot out of it. In the world of gambling, these wonderful, intelligent and innocent sighthounds do not matter. Only their ability to run for their lives at the snapping open of a metal trap matters.
Morag matters. When Morag first wagged her tail, when she first played with her toys and when she sighed contentedly in her basket, she had won the best race of all. She survived to have a better life and got her sweet revenge on those who mishandled her, filled her with drugs, did not show a minute of kindness and would have put a cattle bolt to her head, had the regulations not improved and had there not been the kindness of volunteers at rescue centres.
Due to Morag being so timid and scared, the Greyhound Rescue Fife advised Marie that a male dog companion would bring Morag out of herself. Marie went back up to Kinross and fell in love again, this time with her second sighthound, Hector—a big blue boy only 26 months old. He had been bought from his breeder in Ireland from £12,000. The trainer in Tranent who bought him raced him three times at Newcastle. The blue boy stopped to play at the last bend in each race, so he was disqualified. Luckily, he did not have to put up with a life of being a slave to the gambling industry for long.
Sandside Chief never made money for anyone, but he became a much loved part of her family, and every morning Marie wakes up to the pleasure of her wonderful greyhounds trotting towards her for hugs and food. She says:
“I adore them and all greyhounds. The racing greyhound is a special commodity. I would like to see the breed die out. I would like to see greyhound racing banned. Show greyhounds are looked after. Coursing greyhounds have a healthier lifestyle, but the racing greyhound is born into servitude and from the age of six weeks is trained for only one thing: to make money.”
We have all acknowledged a lot of problems in the industry. There is no doubt about that. If a ban is not forthcoming, then a better life for these greyhounds must be the absolute priority.
It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I am grateful for the opportunity to respond for the Opposition in this debate. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Christina Rees) for opening the debate and for raising a range of important, thought-provoking points that we must all take on board now and in the weeks and months ahead. It was a useful, constructive debate. It was almost harmonious. I get a little bit anxious when that happens, and this debating chamber has many such debates, but it is good that we are working together constructively.
I would like to acknowledge the colleagues who have spoken in the debate, including my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) and the hon. Members for Romford (Andrew Rosindell), for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson) and for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish). I also acknowledge those who signed the petition. The top 10 constituencies are: Isle of Wight; Central Devon; Brighton, Kemptown; Brighton, Pavilion; Torridge and West Devon; Tiverton and Honiton; Hastings and Rye; Camborne and Redruth, the seat of the Secretary of State himself; Edinburgh North and Leith, the seat of the SNP spokesperson; and finally, Somerton and Frome. It is important that we acknowledge when our constituents get involved and get active, and they have clearly done so on this important issue.
We are here this afternoon because this petition received more than 104,000 signatures from local people across the UK. I do not want to detain the House longer than is necessary, but I will say a few things that I hope will reassure those who signed the petition that those on the Opposition Benches are listening but, more importantly, we understand animal welfare.
We believe in honouring animal welfare, and we will always push for the strongest possible animal welfare policies. Like many on the Opposition Benches, I am concerned by the lack of transparency about what happens to greyhounds after they are no longer fit for racing, which means that nobody knows the real situation. I hope the Minister will address that specific point in the wind-up. It is important that we hear about the transparency point, because my party and I believe that we must ensure that all retired greyhounds are properly cared for.
We need proper guidance on best practice and responsible ownership; statutory minimum standards for racing and welfare; better mechanisms to trace ownership; and a centralised database to record what happens after greyhounds are no longer fit to race. Does the Minister agree? If she does, will she speak to each of those real and tangible objectives?
As colleagues will know, and as has already been outlined by the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton, the welfare of racing greyhounds in England is covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations 2010. The regulations were reviewed in 2016, and the Government state that they were found to be broadly effective. Ministers believe that a ban remains unnecessary, and the Opposition agree. I would be grateful, however, if the Minister outlined the most recent engagement with the Greyhound Board of Great Britain. What action is being taken to improve the welfare concerns outlined not only in this debate but by the more than 100,000 people who signed the petition?
Ministers indicated that from January 2021 all trainers’ residential kennels will be subject to auditing and veterinary inspections. Can we have a progress check on that? Last week I spoke for the Opposition at the Humane Society International’s parliamentary reception. In my speech I thanked the Secretary of State, who was present, for reading Labour’s animal welfare proposals in such detail that he ended up pinching many of those proposals for his own animal welfare action plan. That is important, because his action plan made a commitment to considering further protection for racing greyhounds, including further steps to improve standards at trainers’ kennels. Will the Minister outline in some detail what those further protections look like? I would be happy to receive a written report, but it would be great if we could have that information this afternoon. I am sure those sitting in the Public Gallery would be interested, too. Can the Minister touch on the steps being taken to reduce the number of dogs being put to sleep on humane grounds following injuries at the track? That matter is of considerable interest to many, and some clarity would be appreciated.
I led for the Opposition on the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill—the hon. Member for Romford was a member of that Committee, too—the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill and a range of other related pieces of legislation, such as the Animals (Penalty Notices) Bill. In my role as shadow Minister for animal welfare, I am determined to keep pushing the Government to take the strongest possible action on animal welfare, to have the strongest possible resolve in the fight to act, and to not just make empty promises.
That is why I supported measures contained within the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act to increase maximum sentences for the most severe acts of animal cruelty from six months to five years. I am pleased that, in a moment of cross-party agreement, that legislation became law on 29 April 2021, after much hard work from Government Members and former colleagues such as Anna Turley, the former Member for Redcar. Their work means that the maximum penalty is five years’ imprisonment, which is a good step for animal welfare and shows that change can happen if people want it.
Ministers can and should focus on the strongest possible support for greyhounds, notably those who have retired or been injured. They should make sure that this sport—a part of so many working-class communities across the United Kingdom—gets the safeguards and protections it needs. I outline the following as a starter for 10: proper guidance on best practice in responsible ownership; statutory minimum standards for racing and welfare; better mechanisms to trace ownership; and, as already mentioned, a centralised database to record what happens after greyhounds are no longer fit to race. That plan is ready to go, so I urge the Minister to go back to her Department after the debate and get on with it.
It is a pleasure to have you in the Chair, Sir Roger, as I know you are particularly interested in animal welfare. I think we all agree that it has been a genuinely fascinating and moving debate, and I welcome everyone in the Public Gallery, including our canine friend, who I hope is comfortable. Clearly there is a great deal of love in the room for wonderful greyhounds, and I do not think anyone would deny that they are absolutely lovely creatures.
I thank the hon. Member for Neath (Christina Rees) for opening the debate and putting the case for the 104,000 people who have signed the petition. I want to say at the outset that the Government take the issue of greyhound welfare extremely seriously, which is clear from what everybody has said. I particularly thank the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee for its ongoing work on greyhounds. I was actually on the Committee when it did the inquiry back in 2016. I was not on the Sub-Committee, but I was very much involved in all the discussions and scrutiny that took place, and I urge the Committee to keep going with its scrutiny. A huge amount of progress has been made on improving greyhound welfare, so the Government believe that a ban on racing is unnecessary. However, improvements in welfare are always welcome, and we should always be working towards them, as many Members have said.
I will go over some of the history. It was in 2016 that DEFRA and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee undertook the thorough review of the Welfare of Racing Greyhounds Regulations 2010, as we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish). The regulations set welfare standards for all tracks in England while allowing the industry regulator—the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, known as GBGB—to enforce those standards at GBGB tracks. Independent tracks require a local authority licence. There is only one independent track in England, which is Askern in Doncaster.
The 2016 review looked at the performance of GBGB as an enforcer of the 2010 regulations and found it effective. The Select Committee reported that it had
“not seen evidence of critical failings that warranted the creation of an independent regulator at this point.”
However, although the 2010 regulations were found to have improved track welfare, both the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and DEFRA stated that GBGB should be doing more. The Committee recommended that it is
“vital that the industry demonstrates capacity to initiate welfare reform without legislative compulsion if it wants to stay self-regulated.”
The Government then challenged GBGB to do more for greyhounds at trainers’ kennels and to be more transparent. Since 2018, GBGB has published detailed figures on the number of GBGB greyhounds injured and euthanised annually. It has also published the number of greyhounds rehomed or kept by trainers.
I thank the Minister for summing up. I think the issue for GBGB is to make sure that greyhounds can be given enough veterinary expertise. It must not be that a dog is put down because it is uneconomic for it to have veterinary care and operations to ensure that it can have a good life. It is key to make sure that whether a dog is euthanised is not an economic decision but an animal welfare decision.
I will go on to talk a bit more about the national welfare strategy that is being worked on, which is very appropriately called, “A Good Life for Every Greyhound”. The point that my hon. Friend raises will be dealt with in the strategy, and rightly so.
The hon. Member for Neath mentioned that the stats—on the injuries, and so forth—were queried. However, those stats are independently verified in a manner approved by DEFRA. On data and stats, the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones), asked for a GBGB database; there is already a central database run by GBGB.
GBGB has also developed, with welfare groups—including the RSPCA, the Kennel Club, Battersea, and the Dogs Trust—independent standards and a code of practice for trainers’ kennels. GBGB trainers’ kennels are now independently inspected against those standards. Before the end of this year, GBGB should be accredited as an enforcer of them.
Responding to the EFRA Committee in 2018, GBGB introduced its greyhound commitment, which set out further welfare reforms, including its injury recovery and retirement schemes. As I said, GBGB will shortly produce and launch its national welfare strategy, which will look across a whole range of issues, but will genuinely focus on welfare throughout the dog’s life, not just during its racing career. I think that will address the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton.
I was concerned to hear the comments about the Valley track, which I believe is in Caerphilly. As I understand it, that is the only greyhound track in Wales and it is independent. Greyhound regulations are devolved, and, unlike England, Wales has no specific greyhound regulation—nor indeed does Scotland, I believe, although I listened carefully to what the hon. Member for Falkirk (John Mc Nally) said. However, I believe that Welsh Ministers have recently announced that greyhound racing and its licensing will be considered as part of their animal welfare plan for Wales. Independent tracks in England have been required to be licensed since 2010, and the 2010 regulations apply to all tracks in England, including independent ones.
The Minister has put her finger on the problem. The Valley track is in Ystrad Mynach, near Caerphilly, and is an independent track—although it is soon to be a GBGB track. The petition heard in the Senedd will be debated and will form part of the plan, so the Minister is quite correct. However, I would be interested to know what she thinks of the transformation from an independent track to a GBGB track.
I thank the hon. Member for her comments, but that track is in Wales and the matter is still devolved. If she wants more detail on the transition to a GBGB track, I am happy to write to her.
To be clear, what circumstances would the Minister consider important in the specific case of an independent track—say, in England—becoming a GBGB track?
We only have one independent track in England, which I have named, just now, and as far as I know, it does not have any desire to transfer. However, if it did, it would have to adhere to all of the correct standards, exactly as all other tracks do. I am sure that if the hon. Member wants further detail, we can get back to her with that.
Bookmakers have also been encouraged by the Government to pay their fair share to fund GBGB welfare. However, consistently, about 95% of all licensed betting offices—including those online—are now contributing to the voluntary greyhound levy. I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton that the betting industry must be responsible in its contribution to funding welfare, addressing injuries, rehoming and so on. However, betting policy is led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, so I urge him to raise that point with DCMS.
There is no doubt that some in the betting industry are paying their dues, but others are not. That is the key: everybody should be paying. I am not the only one who can contact DCMS Ministers—I urge the Minister to do so, too, to make sure that we fight this hard. I am determined that the entire betting industry should pay its dues.
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention and I completely take his point. The Government believe that greyhound racing currently has a very proactive, pro-welfare body in charge that wishes to work to improve animal welfare.
There has been a lot of agreement in this room. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell), in particular, for all the work he does for greyhounds with the Greyhound Trust and the all-party parliamentary group. We could not have a greater advocate for greyhounds, and I urge him to keep up his scrutiny of the industry. He painted such a great picture of his track in Essex. He was genuinely very supportive of the improvements made; I think we all agree that if there are more welfare improvements to make, we must make them. My hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson) also raised that in his comments.
What a lot we learn about hon. Members in these debates. I have learned so much about the life of the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) and his experience with greyhounds. It has been a bit of a revelation, actually. I think he really brightened up the afternoon with his insights, experience and knowledge, for which I thank him. He clearly has so much knowledge and experience with greyhounds. I urge him to keep up his scrutiny and to work with other hon. Members present for the welfare of these absolutely lovely creatures. I think greyhounds quite like to sit on a sofa, as well as doing all that running—I have seen them be very lazy.
I will conclude there. I hear what has been said in the petition and I thank all those who signed it. I hope I have made it very clear that this Government take animal welfare as a whole incredibly seriously, and particularly the issue of greyhounds and greyhound racing. Improvements are yet to be made, and they will be made. I hope I have made that very clear. However, this Government do not feel that a ban on greyhound racing is necessary.
I thank all hon. Members for their contributions. Animal welfare is always very emotive, but this has been a very respectful debate. Again, I ask the Minister if she will meet with the petitioner, Vanessa—perhaps at Hope Rescue? Maybe the Minister can answer that in the few seconds remaining.
I thank the hon. Lady for putting me on the spot. We in DEFRA are always pleased to hear if people have views about animal welfare that they want to communicate with us. I am not actually the Minister responsible for this issue; she currently has covid. I will pass on that message and, if she would like to meet the petitioner, I am sure she will be in touch.
Again, I thank everyone for contributing to this debate, and I thank you, Sir Roger, for your excellent chairship as usual.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered e-petition 554073, relating to greyhound racing.