Greyhound racing ‘stuck in timewarp’
Hard-hitting report into Greyhound Industry
recommends sweeping changes
THE LONG-AWAITED report into the British Greyhound racing industry was published last week and recommended hard-hitting and sweeping changes in its findings and conclusions.
The report, written by Lord Donoughue of Ashton, concluded that the Industry is ‘stuck in a time warp’ and must be mindful of canine welfare regulations or suffer increasing criticism. Until the Industry promotes a welfare-friendly environment, the sport will continue to fail to attract the affluent, modern, young men and women that its falling attendances need, says the report.
The peer's review was commissioned by the British Greyhound Racing Board (BGRB) and the National Greyhound Racing Club (NGRC) in the wake of the public outcry over the appalling killing and burial of thousands of retired greyhounds at Seaham, Co. Durham which was exposed by a national newspaper in 2006.
Lord Donoughue also warned the sport that come 2009, with the imposition of secondary legislation supporting the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and its associated 'Duty of Care' that ‘regulation of greyhound welfare will tighten anyway - regardless of whether or not the sport improves its act’.
The report also called for a properly qualified veterinary service throughout the sport, with independence from commercial promoters and which operates under the oversight of the ‘Regulator’ – a new, single body which will oversee the sport.
The report contains many fascinating insights into both the industry and the sport of greyhound racing, As well as some worrying statistics about the number of dogs that enter the ‘system’. There were 5,999 licensed greyhound meetings in 2006; around 10,000 new greyhounds were registered to race at licensed British tracks in the same year. Around 75% of new dogs come to Britain from Ireland.
With Irish greyhound racing supplying so many dogs, the welfare issues of over-breeding, tracing and re-homing greyhounds common to the two countries will require close cooperation between the British and Irish greyhound authorities, says the report.
Lord Donoughue says that the increased cost and responsibility imposed by better welfare regulation might result in the industry becoming: ‘..initially a little smaller, at least temporarily, with fewer marginal tracks,’ but, it goes on, ‘it would surely be healthier, economically and morally, in the longer term.’
Bookmakers are an integral part of greyhound racing, without which the sport could not survive. Some, including the major ones, make a voluntary contribution of 0.6% of their relevant turnover to the industry's British Greyhound Racing Fund (BGRF). around £11.5 million in 2006. This contribution has apparently helped finance a greatly increased central expenditure on greyhound welfare in recent years. However, it is clear that there are still large numbers of greyhounds that are not retired through the BGRF and this is where sharp polarisation of views by greyhound and general canine welfare organisations and the industry come into play.
For their own image reasons, says Lord Donoughue, it is in the interests of Bookmakers that the sport should have high welfare standards. Lord Donoughue neatly summed up the issue of welfare in greyhound racing: ‘High welfare standards which today's society demands can only be ensured by strict regulatory procedures - by the rules, licensing, inspection, enquiry and enforcement which an efficient and well resourced modern regulator implements. Without good regulation the sport cannot remain healthy and would suffer ever greater criticism. Good regulation must be at the heart of a successful British greyhound racing industry.’
The Regulator that is being proposed would be independent from the two existing (and largely sectarian), main greyhound racing bodies, (the BGRB & NGRC). Lord Donoughue suggests a 6-month transition period during which a new system for running greyhound racing be minutely prepared.
The resulting regulatory authority would be known as the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) and would incorporate the functions and responsibilities of the present bodies. The report sets out a carefully constructed timetable for the establishment of the GBRC, which includes appointing a Transition Committee, and advocates a public relations strategy which is not reactive, but pro-active and showing that the Industry is getting its act together.
Lord Donoughue states: ‘The [above] schedule of transition is heavy, the timetable which we have proposed is tight and it will require a dedication of financial resource. We are also aware that the greyhound industry has not always had a history of rapid decision-making, nor of quick, efficient and consensual implementation of change. For this reason, we have recommended a strong degree of independent input whilst preserving a realistic level of stakeholder involvement. But this transition timetable is composed on the assumption that institutional modernisation is best executed as rapidly as possible, once the plans have been carefully made.’
If accepted by greyhound racing’s stakeholders, the new GBGB could be up-and-running within six months.
• OUR DOGS will be publishing an in-depth analysis of the report in a subsequent issue.
• The full report is available at www.greyhounds-donoughue.co.uk