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Greyhound racing essay

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Sipping £58 bottles of champagne in the lap of luxury, lobster thermidor on the menu, in executive, air conditioned boxes as the world’s finest canine athletes battle in a game of speed, fitness and stamina. £100, 000 for the winner. Elegance, culture, grace. This is what springs to nearly everybody’s mind when this subject is mentioned: “ Greyhound racing”. This is the romantic image. But does anybody ever stop and think about what happens behind the scenes? Do you?

“ So,” I hear you say, “ People want to go and race some dogs. That’s nice. What could be the problem?” Well, we should start with the basic facts. How many people in the UK own animals do you think? It was estimated in 2001 that there were around 7. 5 million cats, 6. 1 million dogs, 5 million reptiles, 1. 1 million rabbits, 0. 9 million hamsters and 0. 7 million guinea pigs kept as pets. Total that up, and that is an estimated 21. 3 million: If you piled all of those up, one on top of the other, you would get a rather unsteady pile about 3362 miles high. That’s roughly the distance between London and New York. So, for a nation of animal lovers, you would expect us to treat them with some respect, wouldn’t you? Well it would seem that love of animals in this country certainly doesn’t extend to greyhounds.

To see this fact begin to emerge we don’t need to look particularly far into the greyhound racing industry, barely further than its obvious motives. The industry is surrounded by figures – trap numbers, starting prices, prize money, profits, losses. The whole sport is based on finance, and most people realize that. What lengths will some people go to for money, and how can you judge if it’s too far? I think we can surely draw the line at the suffering and murdering of innocent living things: One figure the racing industry does not bother to publish, or even bother to calculate, is the number of greyhounds heartlessly murdered each year because they are no longer “ good enough”, or were never “ good enough” to begin with. So, what is this figure? It can’t be that bad… Can it?

The British Greyhound Racing Board, as stated on their website, claims “ Greyhound welfare is the top priority”. After all, “ The sport is currently working with welfare charities and the government to develop this legislation that is expected to set out in law minimum welfare standards for greyhound racing.” Wait… Does this mean there are currently no minimum welfare standards set out in law? The sport does spend, however, about one third of its annual budget on welfare. This includes support for retired greyhounds, veterinary attendance, and track safety. The industry claims that “ A Night at the Dogs” is “ something to do”, a fun and exciting evening.

Tens of thousands of greyhounds are bred every year in the British Isles for racing purposes, 28, 500 in total, to fill the demand from the British industry, in hope of breeding a racer, a winner, a money making machine. Now let’s look at the number of dogs beginning their so-called “ careers” at British racing tracks every year (about 13, 000). Does anybody else notice the massive difference between these two figures? What has happened to the other 15, 500 puppies bred to be raced?

On the website of the British Greyhound Racing Board, they have this to say about breeding: “ The breeding of greyhounds is a refined and studious task in modern times, with breeders aware that only the best-bred animals are likely to be able to achieve success on the track.” I’m not sure quite when the act of forcing beautiful creatures to exist solely for giving birth to fill the demand of an industry whose appeal is “ a fun evening” became “ refined (cultured and polite) and studious (careful with attention to detail)”. The website also says nothing about where the animals that are not “ likely to be able to achieve success on the track” end up.

Think about this. It costs about £800 to keep a dog alive for a year. So, if you were a greyhound breeder, would you dig deep in your pockets to keep the slower, smaller dogs alive, the ones you could never hope to race or to sell? The simple answer is no, and we can see this from the stunning number, over 15, 000, of greyhounds that are killed annually in the British Isles before they even reach their first birthday. This happens often inhumanely and illegally, for the sole reason that they weren’t fast enough to be able to race. The greyhound racing industry demands this unreasonable, unnatural quantity of breeding, and yet an enormous amount of the dogs coming from this are killed, and never do fulfil what they were bred to do.

So, what about the lucky number who do make it to the track? Is it over for them? Well, star greyhounds (In other words, the dogs that make their owners huge wads of cash) are well cared for in life, fed, groomed, and watered. That doesn’t make the “ sport” itself any more humane, though. The fast, winning greyhounds are few and far between, for one. The losing dogs cost their trainers enough; do you really think that they will pay extra money to make the dog comfortable? The sheer horror and scale of the massacre of these dogs can be highlighted even by the money the industry is spending each year on veterinary “ care” for the greyhounds. A vet from the Nottingham racing track admitted to destroying about 10 perfectly healthy dogs a week.

Let’s look a little closer at the lives of the winning greyhounds. On the British Greyhound Racing’s Hall of Fame, one dog alone was listed for this decade. This would make stars like “ Rapid Ranger” about one in every 360, 000 dogs bred. He soon became hot property, though his racing career came to an end at four and a half years old, when he was knocked out on the track. Spring Rose, a star of the nineties, saw her racing career come to an end with a horrific injury, and she was then sent to be “ mated”.

I am in no way suggesting that all greyhound owners are insensitive – in all sports there are the minority that love and care for their dogs, be they top or bottom class. With this in mind, we have to wonder: Every time these owners send their dogs out to race, they are exposing them to the possibility of horrific injury. Would the owners truly do this, take that chance, if they loved their dogs so much? The greyhound track is a dangerous place. As a woman who worked for a greyhound trainer for two years told the Mail, “ It was commonplace to see cut ears, sprains, holes in faces, dropped muscles, ripped claws or toes torn open – all this happens in the race itself.” Loved and cared for? Impossible. All of this is commonplace while the industry is supposedly spending copious amounts of money on track “ safety”.

A dog’s racing career doesn’t last long, either. Most greyhounds “ retire” at around two years old – a dog whose natural life span would be around 14. How many of these thousands and thousands of dogs bred for racing purposes actually find good homes when they retire? Only 3, 500 from the 40, 000 originally bred. The dogs that do get homes are also taking homes from other homeless dogs – of which 7, 750 are put down every year. So the “ 3, 500 greyhounds rescued” does not mean 3, 500 dogs saved – it means 3, 500 dogs saved whilst another 3, 500 that would have been saved are condemned to death by the greyhound racing industry.

The majority of retiring greyhounds are put to sleep by a vet after their “ usefulness” has passed, anyway, and many more are killed by much more horrific methods such as being battered to death, hanged, killed with rat poison or thrown into a river weighed down with bricks just because their owners don’t want to dig deep in their pockets to pay for getting them killed by a vet. It’s a barbaric and unfeeling end to a short, miserable life – just like killing any other dog just because its coat was no longer shiny enough to compete at elite shows.

This is Kamaksan, an Australian greyhound who collapsed after a race and was then left to die.

There are also the incomprehensibly lazy and merciless folk who can’t even be bothered getting their dogs killed, and merely abandon them in the middle of nowhere, after hacking off their ears to hide their identity. Greyhound rescue societies find many of these every year – cowering in corners, relentlessly tortured.

The United Kingdom is not even the worst country for the treatment of racing greyhounds. Australia is responsible for creating, promoting and encouraging greyhound racing in Asia. There are no provisions made for these dogs when they finish racing in Asia and no chance of re-homing. Countries such as Korea and China are notorious for their barbaric, illegal, thriving trade in dog meat for human consumption.

These dogs are killed in the cruelest possible way as many Koreans believe that the rush of adrenalin through the dog’s body as it dies in agony will increase human virility. Consequently, millions of dogs each year are electrocuted, strangled, skinned alive or bludgeoned to death in Korea, and all because they were not fast enough to make a profit. Many photographs such as these are on the internet as examples of just how horrifically treated these creatures are all around the world, and it sickens me that the industry claims these dogs are well treated, and that an evening spent watching these majestic creatures being hurt and oppressed could cause anybody pleasure.

Is this cold-blooded exploitation of innocent animals for nothing more than fun and money worth it to you? The only way to stop this would be to make it illegal to place or accept bets on dog races and limiting the value of prizes to a tiny amount. This way, the huge demand for greyhounds caused by the commercialised finance based industry, would disappear.

The racing could only be done as a hobby or illegally – and so less breeding would occur and this would mean less unnecessary slaughter. In the words of Annette Crosbie, “ Hundreds of greyhounds are bred in the hope of getting a winner. The remainder are surplus to requirements and have no future. It is, bluntly, a state of affairs which reflects little glory on Britain as a so-called nation of animal lovers. I have to mention them because no-one cares”.

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