LAST SATURDAY supporters of international greyhound protection organisation Greyhound Action held a picket outside Wimbledon greyhound stadium, South London in protest against the abuse of dogs by the greyhound racing industry.
The demonstration coincided with a race meeting that included the Final of the Greyhound Derby, the biggest dog-racing event of the year.
The protesters, carrying banners and placards, handed out hundreds of leaflets to members of the public attending the race-night, urging them not to support greyhound racing. Many members of the public indicated that they fully supported the protest and opposed the continuation of greyhound racing.
Greyhound Action's UK coordinator, Tony Peters, said: ‘Every year at least 25,000 greyhounds are bred to supply the demands of the British greyhound racing industry. The vast majority of these dogs will be disposed of by the industry before they are four years old.
‘Only a few percent of these 'unwanted' greyhounds will find good homes. Most are either killed or face an even worse fate. Since greyhound racing started in this country hundreds of thousands of greyhounds have been put to death, and the figure could easily be over a million.
‘Those which are 'put to sleep' by a vet can count themselves lucky. Many are just abandoned or are killed by a variety of horrific methods, such as clubbing, drowning or injection with poisonous substances.’
In 2006, two national media exposés highlighted the wholesale slaughter of ex-racing greyhounds and several mass graves containing the bodies of shot greyhounds have been discovered in recent years. On the day of the protest itself, the Daily Mail ran a feature revealing yet more information about the appalling plight of dogs at the hands of the racing industry.
Mr peters continued: ‘A track like Wimbledon is responsible, on average, for the slaughter of about 500 greyhounds every year. These include dogs considered 'not good enough' for racing, as well as those disposed of at the end of their racing 'careers'.
‘There is a local greyhound rescue group, which does excellent work in finding homes for some of the dogs that 'retire' from racing at the stadium, but this only amounts to a minority of the greyhounds disposed of because of the existence of the Wimbledon track.
‘In addition there are thousands of injuries, many of them serious, caused to greyhounds running on British tracks every year, because the shape of the tracks, with long straights leading into tight bends, creates a very dangerous environment for the dogs to run in.’
In the Derby quarter-finals, run recently at Wimbledon, the hot favourite for the event, Phoenix Paddy, was badly injured, and the joint-second favourite, Farloe Premier, was withdrawn through injury.
Greyhound Action believes that the only real solution is for commercial greyhound racing to be ended, especially as no more than a tiny percentage of all these greyhounds can be found good homes in a situation where thousands of ordinary dogs are 'put to sleep' annually by local authorities, the RSPCA and other organisations because homes are not available for them.
Mr Peters concluded: ‘Six states in the USA have banned greyhound racing in recent years, so there is no reason why a ban shouldn't be imposed in the UK. In the meantime it is important to educate the public to boycott greyhound racing. If enough people refrained from attending greyhound racing and stopped betting on races, then the activity would die out through lack of support.
‘We regard Saturday's protest as a great success. Well over 1,000 leaflets were given out and many people decided not to enter the stadium, when they read about the plight of the dogs.
‘Wimbledon Stadium has recently suffered a 28% drop in attendances at greyhound races, largely due to growing public awareness, and the crowd at this Saturday's Derby Final appeared to be considerably less than in previous years.’
* Greyhound Action website at www.greyhoundaction.org.uk