THE CHAIRMAN of the British Greyhound industry’s governing body last week said that he ‘welcomed’ the report into the welfare of racing Greyhounds published by the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare.
The report - set up in the wake of an expose into the killing of unwanted ex-racing Greyhounds by the Sunday Times newspaper last July - exposes the chilling fact that at least 4,700 greyhounds aged four years or younger may be killed each year in England when they are retired from racing. In addition, approximately 2,500 young greyhounds between the age of 16 weeks and 15 months may be killed simply because they are not ‘good enough’ to ever start racing. This comes to a total of at least 7,200 greyhounds potentially being killed each year because they are not wanted by the greyhound racing industry. The report recommends, as a priority, that a system be introduced to match the number of dogs bred into greyhound racing with the number that can be successfully rehomed at the end of their racing career.
The British Greyhound Racing Board said it welcomed the report but claimed it had been overtaken by a similar investigation by the former agriculture minister Lord Donoughue.
Chairman Lord David Lipsey said: ‘The APGAW inquiry was set up in the aftermath of the abhorrent events at Seaham. Since then, much has changed with the culprits warned off for life, and some four million pounds a year invested by the sport in improving welfare - a 29% increase this year alone.
‘The APGAW report is welcome insofar as anything that aims to contribute to a better life for our greyhounds is welcome.
‘The report recognises that 'well-regulated greyhound racing can be entirely consistent with good greyhound welfare.' It corrects wild claims from extremist groups that only one in five racing greyhounds survives. It rightly finds 8,000 greyhounds are rehomed or kept as pets each year - which is more like two in three.
‘This has not happened by chance. It has happened because of increased funding for the Retired Greyhound Trust which has doubled the number of dogs it rehomes over the past five years.
‘With public appreciation that greyhounds make wonderful pets growing, that figure will grow too.
‘Many of its recommendations in this report are already under consideration by greyhound racing. Its endorsement of more funding for welfare from the bookmakers has greyhound racing's support.
‘The Government has made clear it expects greyhound racing to put its own house in order. With Lord Donoughue's help this we shall do.’
However, Lord Lipsey’s comments were dismissed as arrogant and out of touch by greyhound welfare campaigners. Tony Peters of Greyhound Action commented: ‘The number of greyhounds bred because of the demand created by the British dog racing industry amounts to between 25,000 and 30,000 per year. Thus, even if 8,000 are found homes every year (which is extremely doubtful), that only amounts to one in three, at the very most.
‘Previous to the APGAW report, the British Greyhound Racing Board were claiming that ‘only’ about 1,000 greyhounds were ‘put down’ every year, so it is actually the industry's own ‘wild claims’ that have been substantially corrected by the report.
‘In addition, 8,000 greyhounds found homes every year wouldn't mean that the lives of 8,000 dogs were saved. It would just mean that the lives of 8,000 greyhounds were saved and 8,000 other ‘unwanted’ dogs condemned to death in their place, because homes they could have gone to would be taken up by greyhounds.
‘Even if the number of greyhounds that survive were two in three, that would mean that one in three lose their lives because of the dog racing industry, which is, of itself, an overwhelming argument for the abolition of commercial greyhound racing.’
‘Greyhound Action say that the homing figures produced by the Retired Greyhound Trust are open to considerable doubt, as it has been claimed by many people in the rescue community that greyhounds returned to the RGT, and then homed again, are counted twice, and that some homings done by other rescue groups are included in the RGT figures.
‘In any event, the main reason why the RGT's figures have risen is because of the increased public awareness of the plight of greyhounds that has been created by groups campaigning for greyhound protection, such as ourselves.
‘We must not worry too much about what characters like Lipsey have to say. Provided the public continue to be educated about the suffering and slaughter of greyhounds at the hands of the dog racing industry, that industry will continue on its slide towards oblivion.’
Helen Stevens of South Devon Greyhound Action echoed Mr Peters’ comments saying: ‘Lord Lipsey states that ‘the APGAW enquiry was set up in the aftermath of the abhorrent events at Seaham’. Our question to Lord Lipsey is despite much damning evidence of cruelty to greyhounds over the years why in fact has it taken the Seaham case to spark an enquiry? Lord Lipsey and the greyhound industry surely must have known for aeons what happens to these greyhounds and yet due only to public demand is there an enquiry, why have they not conducted their own previous enquiries?
‘What makes Lord Lipsey think that well regulated greyhound racing is going to stop cruelty? There are already rules and regulations within the industry and yet cruelty and misconduct continues!
‘Lord Lipsey states that ‘The Government has made clear it expects greyhound racing to put its own house in order. With Lord Donoughue's help this we shall do’.
SDGA say why in fact has the industry not put its own house in order previous to Lord Donoghue's enquiry? Surely if you create a business one must be wholly responsible for this and not expect help from outside parties.’
‘The bottom line here is that no amount of regulation will ever stop the excessive breeding, mistreatment and killing of greyhounds and we feel Lord Lipsey should be ashamed of himself for supporting and speaking as Chairman for the British Greyhound Racing Board for an industry that is guilty of creating a situation whereby thousands upon thousands of dogs are killed and abandoned by greedy, evil people who have no regard for their greyhounds.’
Meanwhile, the combined animal welfare groups constituted on the Government-appointed Greyhound Forum warmly welcomed the APGAW report into the welfare of Greyhounds.
Whilst discussions at Forum meetings, over many years, have improved welfare standards there is little doubt that the wastage of Greyhounds remains the single biggest concern to its members.
This concern was echoed by the Chairman of the Greyhound Forum, Clarissa Baldwin, who said: ‘Breeding both in the UK and, more importantly in Ireland, must be bought under control. There will be no confidence in the industry until the shocking statistics are eliminated.’
By Nick Mays