Greyhound Compassion condemns the 2017 statistics published by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain on 14 March 2018 on its own website. The statistics fail to disclose the total number of greyhounds racing on the UK tracks making the total data context difficult to analyse. The statistics reveal there were 257 “track fatalities” in 2017. This equates to 5 greyhounds per week dying on British racetracks – one too many per day in a working week. The GBGB euthanasia figures show 1,013 greyhounds having been put to sleep or suffering “sudden” or “natural” death. Of these, at least 67% of the deaths lack detailed explanation or were because “no home found” or treatment costs were deemed too expensive. The bookmakers’ net profit in 2014 (latest data GC has identified) was £237m from greyhound racing. Hard to believe a multi-million pound industry found treatment costs too expensive for its staple commodity.
At the same time as publishing the 2017 statistics, the GBGB launched “The Greyhound Commitment”, setting out a series of promises and initiatives, including an intention that every greyhound that can be homed when it retires is successfully homed. This is quite a revelation because over the years racing enthusiasts have been adamant that there has not been a problem and if the owners and trainers have not taken the dogs into their own homes, charity home finders have been homing the surplus greyhounds. Now “The Greyhound Commitment” contradicts this. In addition, the funding behind “The Greyhound Commitment” does not yet appear to be firmly in place.
In response to the published statistics, the EFRA Committee called for a statutory levy to be placed on bookmakers (including online bookmakers) profiting from greyhound racing in the UK in a letter from the Committee’s Chair, Neil Parish MP, to Tracey Crouch MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The EFRA Committee welcomed the publication of the figures and the greater transparency they provide, but also called for further efforts to reduce the number of dogs euthanised due to financial considerations. Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said:
“Greyhound racing should be subject to the same high standards that we expect of any sport involving animals. If greyhound racing is to thrive in the UK, it must prioritise animal welfare over financial gain. Bookmakers make huge profits on greyhound racing and they have a responsibility to support greyhound welfare whether they trade from the High Street or trade online. We remain resolute in our belief that a statutory levy on bookmakers is essential to protect the welfare of racing dogs in the UK.”
“We welcome the figures published today by GBGB, showing a commitment to greater transparency about the destination of retired racers. However, we are concerned that 355 dogs were put to sleep last year because no suitable home could be found or because of the high cost of medical treatment. The welfare of racing dogs should be paramount and every effort should be made to reduce the number of dogs being put to sleep for economic reasons.”
Also noteworthy is that the statistics and “The Greyhound Commitment” exclude the greyhounds racing on the independent (“flapping”) tracks. The existence of parallel systems (GBGB licensed in addition to the flapping tracks) was of concern to the EFRA Committee in its 2015 review.
The League Against Cruel Sports provided valuable commentary on the GBGB’s 2017 statistics and, rightly so, repeated its call for a ban on greyhound racing : “….It is time greyhound racing was consigned to the ranks of cruel sports which are no longer acceptable…..injuries are not an unavoidable risk – they are an inevitable consequence of an industry based on dogs’ suffering.”
And all of this for the first time since greyhound racing started in the UK in…..1926.