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Chamber and committees

Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee

Meeting date: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Agenda: Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Petition



Greyhound Racing (PE1758)

The Convener

The next item on our agenda is consideration of a petition. PE1758 calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to put an end to greyhound racing in Scotland.

The petition has been referred to the committee by the Public Petitions Committee on the basis that we are considering the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill. However, as the paper states, that bill has been quite narrowly drafted for two main purposes: to make provisions for existing animal and wildlife offences, including how those offences are dealt with, prosecuted or considered in courts; and to provide inspectors and constables with additional powers to deal with an animal that is taken into possession on welfare grounds, regardless of whether an offence has taken place. That means that, although the petition has been referred to us because we are dealing with the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill, it does not fit in with the scope of that bill.

Do members have any thoughts on options for the petition?


Mark Ruskell

I recognise that this is an issue of strong public concern, but it is also an issue that has never really had any scrutiny in the Parliament, despite concerns being raised during the passage of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

Despite the fact that the petition is not an exact fit with the bill that we are dealing with, we recognise that the Scottish Government is currently considering regulations that relate to performance animals. It has not indicated whether greyhound racing will be within the scope of those regulations, but it is likely that greyhound racing might be included as part of that review. Therefore, it would make sense for this committee, as the lead committee with responsibility for animal welfare, to take evidence on the petition from the petitioners and from representatives of the greyhound racing industry. If there are conclusions from that evidence session that would help the Scottish Government to address issues as part of its regulatory review or, indeed, issues that could be passed on to the animal welfare commission when it is formed, I think that that would be a solid piece of work.

I recognise that the committee has an incredible workload ahead of it and that, therefore, the opportunity for an extended inquiry is limited. Nevertheless, the key points deserve to be raised, and I think that the petitioners, in particular, deserve to have their points of view brought to the Parliament.

Colin Smyth

I agree with that. The animal welfare issues around greyhound racing have been known for some time, but Parliament has not taken them on board or discussed them sufficiently to enable it to come to any conclusions on the issue. There are currently a lot of concerns about the doping of greyhounds, about the issue of euthanasia and about the requirement for large numbers of dogs to be rehomed. A lot of serious concerns have not been addressed. It would be remiss of Parliament not to give the people who have lodged the petition an opportunity to put their case to us—obviously, other people will want to make a different case. As this committee has animal welfare issues within its remit, it is an appropriate place for the issues to be discussed.

I acknowledge the workload of the committee and the amount of other issues that it must consider. Nevertheless, I think that the petitioners should be given an opportunity to put their views to Parliament.

The Convener

I think that we all agree that the issue that the petition deals with does not fit in with the bill. However, the point that the petitioners should be able to air their views is well made, and I do not think that there is any disagreement on that.

The minister has said that the programme for government will

“introduce and reform licensing of animal activities including animal sanctuaries, rehoming centres, breeding and the use of animals in public display or performance.”

The programme for government makes no specific mention of greyhound racing. However, the point has been made that the petitioners should be given space to put their case, so that the issue can be considered, and that this committee is the best place for that to happen.

Do we agree that, ahead of our consideration of the issue of the licensing of animal activities, we should allow space in our work programme to have the petitioners and, potentially, other stakeholders come in so that we can ask them questions and get a full picture of what is involved in this area?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener

That concludes the committee’s business in public today. At its next meeting, on 17 December, the committee expects to hear from the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment on the Animals and Wildlife (Protections, Penalties and Powers) (Scotland) Bill.

We will now move into private session.

12:18 Meeting continued in private until 12:36.