Lord Lipsey Chairman of the British Greyhound Racing Board with Mike Hobday (right), Chief Executive of the League Against Cruel Sports
THE GOVERNMENT are planning to launch a full inquiry into the Greyhound killing scandal at the personal behest of DEFRA Minister Ben Bradshaw, it was confirmed earlier this week.
The issue was raised as an emergency item at the latest meeting of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare that was held at the House of Commons on Monday evening.
OUR DOGS Chief Reporter Nick Mays was attending the meeting in his capacity as an Adviser to Dog Theft Action who were making a presentation to the Committee. However, with the blessing of the APGAW Chairman Eric Martlew MP (Labour, Carlisle), OUR DOGS can exclusively reveal that DEFRA Animal Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw was ‘appalled’ by the report of an alleged unofficial Greyhound ‘dump’ in the North east which appeared in last week’s Sunday Times and is taking the matter ‘very seriously’. He added that the Minister has ordered an inquiry into the whole matter, which may result in prosecutions of individuals involved in the ‘disposal’ of unwanted Greyhounds.
Lord David Lipsey, Chairman of the British Greyhound Racing Board, which represents Greyhound owners, breeders and trainers, attended the meeting and was keen to play down the scandal by attempting to put it into a form of context, whilst explaining what the sport’s governing body, the National Greyhound Racing Club, intended to do about it. Lord Lipsey told the meeting: ‘I was absolutely disgusted by what I read in the Sunday Times [about the alleged Greyhound killings by David Smith]. 20 to 30 years ago this would have been standard practice under the old regime of the National Greyhound Racing Club, but there has been a new regime in place for 13 months now and we take this issue very seriously.’
Lord Lipsey went on to explain that under NRGC Rules, an owner must report a racing dog’s retirement to the Club, and give details of where the dog is sold to or rehomed, or whether indeed it has been put to sleep. If an owner failed to do so, they would be liable to a £1,000 fine.
‘If a trainer was found to be involved in lass killings such as have been reported, they would lose their license and never be allowed to train or race Greyhounds again,’ added Lord Lipsey. ‘We don’t fear an inquiry into this. One idea we have had is to set up a helpline so that people within the industry who know this sort of thing is going on can report those responsible. We need proof to catch these people, so the NGRC is conducting research into how we may best do this.’
Unfortunately, Lord Lipsey alienated some of his allies at the meeting by saying: ‘Of course, if everyone took on a rescued Greyhound instead of these other breeds, there wouldn’t be this problem in the first place.’
This brought a swift rebuke from Clarissa Baldwin, Chief Executive of Dogs Trust and Chair of the Greyhound Forum, a collective of animal welfare organisations concerned with greyhound welfare, including Dogs Trust, RSPCA and the Blue Cross, amongst others, pointing out that such a suggestion was unhelpful, as clearly not everyone wanted to take on a greyhound, and that Dogs Trust and others were concerned with the welfare of all dogs. She said that the Greyhound Forum had asked the Government to be part of a new regulatory committee to police the Greyhound Racing Industry. ‘We re going to put to the Government that statutory regulation, rather than self-regulation by the industry, is the way to go,’ she said.
Clare Robinson of the RSPCA agreed with Ms Baldwin’s statement, and added: ‘One of the questions we also need to ask is why do so many greyhounds need rehoming? Surely there should be better breeding control by the industry.’
Mike Hobday, Chief Executive of the League Against Cruel Sports pointed out that during the Parliamentary debates on the Animal Welfare Bill, the regulation of the industry had been considered, but that the Government had always pushed for self-regulation by the NGRC. ‘The management of the industry outlines the tragedy,’ said Mr Hobday. ‘Notwithstanding the improvements that have been made over the past few months, there is still an ugly side to the greyhound racing industry. There are still the independent tracks, and dogs race as both independent and licensed tracks. And of course, the industry takes £2 Billion in bets every year from all of those tracks.’
Veteran Greyhound welfare campaigner, actress Annette Crosbie spoke eloquently and passionately on the issue, saying: ‘No-one in greyhound welfare was remotely surprised by this report. Nothing has changed where the dogs are concerned. Every welfare representative argued in discussions on the Animal Welfare Bill that self-regulation will not work. Let us be clear about this – the NGRC was set up by bookmakers – and the bookmakers run the industry. Racing dogs cannot be compared to racing horses – they certainly do not have the same level of protection and this has become very clear from the Sunday Times report!’
Lord Lipsey, clearly rattled by these views said that the industry was, in fact, in decline and suffered from having many ‘marginal trainers’ who did race dogs on both kinds of track. Returning to his theme of the NGRC sorting out the ‘disposal’ problem, Lord Lipsey declared: ‘I will find out these information, an independent registry would not. The NGRC has been working now for 13 months [since reorganisation], maybe it would become clear in 5 years’ time that self-regulation is not the way to go, but we can’t say that now. I am convinced that self-regulation is the best way to police this issue.’
Eric Martlew cut in at this point saying; ‘With respect, David, you didn’t discover this – a reporter from the Sunday Times discovered it.’
Mr Martlew concluded the discussions, by reiterating that Government action was going to be taken. ‘APGAW will set up a working group to investigate the whole matter. Ben Bradshaw and DEFRA have agreed to this. We would hope to report back in a few months with a clear course of action which we can suggest to the Government.’