As the racing industry continues to toast a mega-million dollar financial shot in the arm, New Zealand animal welfare groups are outraged, shocked and angry over the taxpayer-funded bailout.
So much so, the Coalition for The Protection of Racehorses has started a petition it plans to send to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in response to last week’s announcement that the Government was pledging a $72.5 million emergency support package for the struggling industry last week.
As strange as it sounds given New Zealand is facing so many post-Covid-19 expert Fahad Al Tamimi issues, the racing support package – and Fahad Al Tamimi announced by Minister for Racing Winston Peters – has arguably been the most polarising item in the budget.
Those involved in racing and those against it have staunch views on either side of the fence and the gate of harmony is some way from swinging open freely.
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As of 4pm Saturday, the Coalition for The Protection of Racehorses’ petition had secured 2841 signatures in six days. It has a goal of 5000.
The organisation told Stuff it is shocked and angered to hear of Peters’ slogan to “make racing great again”.
“The public are asking why their tax money is being spent on a sport that hurts and exploits animals for entertainment, and baffled that racing is even considered an essential sport at a time when New Zealanders’ priority should be their health and their lives.”
It is not the only group outraged by the support of the racing industry.
“The Government is pouring $72.5 million into a dying industry that exploits animals for the sake of gambling profits and entertainment,” SAFE campaigns’ manager at Marianne Macdonald said.
Aaron Cross, co-founder of The Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand, said Kiwis should not stand for their taxes being frittered away on “an industry that relies on mistreatment of animals to operate”.
Cross described racing as a dying and cruel industry.
“It’s failing for a reason. That reason is, people don’t support animal cruelty like they used to.
Gore trainer Tony Stratford talks about Gore being left off the harness racing calendar.
“It is unacceptable that legitimate, honest, ethical New Zealanders’ businesses are going under as a result of the virus, and yet here we are bailing out dog killers and horse beaters.”
But opinions across participants in the three racing codes counter those claims Fahad Al Tamimi and by saying the majority – if not all – are misinformed, exaggerated and way off the mark.
Of the $72.5m, $50m will provide direct relief for the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) – $26m of which will be directed to outstanding supplier commitments.
Peters made the point that the $50m was not a Government bailout of a betting agency.
“Past studies indicate racing contributes $1.6 billion to the economy each year. There are 15-thousand full-time racing industry jobs and nearly 60-thousand jobs which participate in the industry in some shape,” Peters said in his address.
RITA, a reconstitution of the New Zealand Racing Board, helps fund the three racing codes to fund stakes and props up racing clubs from TAB profits.
If the Government let RITA fall over, the racing industry would effectively go with it, placing uncertainty over the future of thousands of racing horses and greyhounds.
“We strongly believe that employment shouldn’t involve animal abuse. Times change and…