A greyhound advocate started a petition to have greyhound racing in the UK phased out. We are appealing to our supporters to sign it. At 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for discussion in Parliament. The petition was launched in response to the publication of the racing industry’s 2017 data for injuries and end of life. This was the first time ever, in racing’s 92 year history, that the industry published its statistics.
The 2017 data revealed that 1,013 greyhounds died within the racing industry: 257 on the track; and 590 (58% of total deaths) were destroyed due to injury. This naturally gives rise to the question as to how these fatal injuries arose. Professor Andrew Knight’s (Animal Welfare & Ethics, Winchester University) report, Injuries In Racing Greyhounds, Prof. Andrew Knight demonstrates the problem with ovoid tracks and their composition. He shows the combination of racing at speed, distance and track design can all significantly increase the injury risk especially at the first bend when congestion is at its maximum. He explains how the New Zealand Racing Integrity Unit has concluded that 68% of injuries and 75% of fatalities occur on the first bend.
Prof. Knight’s report examines the interesting concept of “bony remodelling” (as the greyhound skeleton seeks to adapt to the increased forces brought about by cornering) and its propensity to increase the risk of resultant injuries in racing greyhounds.
Not surprising then that a published death rate of 5 greyhounds per week on track, anecdotes of adopted greyhounds suffering from legacy injuries, coupled with press coverage of racing atrocities and deplorable training kennels have led the general public to conclude that greyhound racing in the UK should be phased out leading to a nationwide ban. If you agree please do sign the petition (note: the petition shows the industry’s initial figure of 1,003 greyhound deaths, they updated this figure to 1,013 later in the day when the data was published on 14 March 2018).
Greyhound Compassion volunteers have just returned from an action packed visit to the Protectora y Santuario Scooby in Medina del Campo. The four of us tried to cram as much into the trip as we possibly could.
We did the usual cleaning, hosing, tidying, food preparation and sorting jobs and then tried to complement these with a few extras! So many lovely and friendly galgos were in residence. Scooby is expecting many more galgos to be dumped during the early months of the coursing season (now open) because the hares have a mutated form of myxomatosis. This is bound to increase the numbers of galgos coming into the shelter during the winter as hunts will be aborted, not to mention the suffering of the poor hares.
We persuaded the fund-raising committee to delay a shelter open day by one week so that we could help out. Seemed like a good idea at the time but what we didn’t realise was that the weather would be such a big influence (not quite the “come rain or shine” mentality we are used to in the UK). On the open day the weather was chilly and threatened rain but the dedicated Spanish supporters came along for a tour of the shelter and refreshments.
The Brits introduced the idea of a “lucky dip” for the children and another technical game of skill and nerve for the teenagers. Unfortunately somebody let the recently rescued puppies out for the children just as they approached the “lucky dip” – who could compete with half a dozen appealing puppies?
We raised a few Euros in aid of the shelter but can’t help thinking it would have been better not to have interfered and to have left the organisers to capitalise on the sunny weather one week earlier. Still it was good to showcase the animals and hard work of Scooby. In the same week, the Scooby rescuers had completed the last of several visits to a dog collector to rescue many neglected and ill-treated dogs.
We were really pleased to see that work had started on replacing the dilapidated fencing around the enclosures in the oldest part of the shelter – all 800m around corridors 7 and 8. This will improve immensely the conditions for the galgos in the shelter. It gives the dogs the benefit of natural light and fresh air in their outdoor runs but without a transparent view into each others’ territory, withdrawing the opportunity to antagonise each other, or to dig under the fence to reach the neighbours, or break out and go on a tour of the shelter!
Thank you to all of our donors who helped to make this much needed work possible. We launched in January 2018, appealing for €20,000 for the project and reached the target in September with the work starting in October. Donations came from Greyhound Compassion, Galgos Greys and More (Switzerland & Germany), Scooby’s Slovenian marathon runners in the Medina del Campo half marathon, a Dutch craft circle and their on-line auctions as well as some private donations. Thank you!
Protectora y Santuario Scooby benefits from the many volunteers who visit but we’ve come to realise that the written ground rules do not go far enough in today’s world of instant messaging and interactive communications. With this in mind we helped to make a video at the shelter to remind volunteers to respect Scooby as the home of the animals and to show what value volunteers can add when working at the shelter. The film certainly conveys the message but only after a number of outtakes. We had to contend with puppies tormenting the oldies while they were being cleaned out in the background, galgo needle noses poking into the camera, changing weather, poor scripting and very amateur camera skills on a selfie-stick until a fellow volunteer took over. The final product will certainly serve the purpose and what a laugh we had making it!
Last Tuesday Greyhound Compassion was present at the All-party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group (APDAWG) in Portcullis House, London. The theme of the meeting was, “Greyhound Racing in the UK – An Update on Welfare.”
The meeting focussed on what’s happened since the post-implementation review of The Welfare of Racing Greyhound Regulations was signed off by DEFRA in 2016.
Stakeholders from across the debate provided in-depth contributions to the EFRA Select Committee & DEFRA consultations in 2015-2016 to make the case for a high standard of welfare for the tens of thousands of greyhounds racing on British racetracks.
A significant milestone was reached in March 2018 when the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) published, for the first time in racing’s 92 year history in the UK, injury & end of life data in response to the DEFRA review. The publication was accompanied by a new 5 year Greyhound Commitment from the GBGB.
We went along to hear what has changed since 2016 from the expert panel comprising: Mark Bird, MD, GBGB; Trudy Baker, Chair Greyt Exploitations; Professor Andrew Knight, Animal Welfare & Ethics, Winchester University; Clarissa Baldwin OBE, Chair – Greyhound Forum; Nick Weston, Head of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports.
The GBGB presented its 5 year plan to: drive down euthanasia on economic grounds; cement the Greyhound Commitment; and professionalise the racing industry through apprenticeships. The GBGB added that it would be conducting research into the implications of temperature extremes for racing dogs, acknowledging that racing had continued at the majority of tracks during the “beast from the East” winter and 2018 summer heatwave.
The GBGB pointed to its funding decline. High street bookies closing has meant 20% shaved off of their bottom line. The GBGB ’s overriding theme was one of ambition against the backdrop of independent rescues picking up the pieces – way too little, way too late.
Clarissa Baldwin OBE covered the nobility of the greyhound and the origins of the breed. She openly touched on the failures of the GBGB in the past and acknowledged its attempts to put its house in order, and to engage more responsively with the Greyhound Forum (comprising: Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Blue Cross, Dogs Trust, Greyhounds in Need, Forever Hounds Trust, Greyhound Trust, The Kennel Club, Wood Green Animal Shelters and RSPCA). She acknowledged that the greyhound deaths on economic grounds must be eradicated, “no place for trainers who consistently put greyhounds to sleep on economic grounds”. Clarissa recognised that the standard for trainers’ kennels is a BSI document available at a cost and, therefore, many trainers are reluctant to purchase it, thinking they could do without it.
All pretty tame, nothing new up to this point of the meeting. Step forward Trudy Baker, Andrew Knight and Nick Weston and it was clear that the GBGB had been defending the indefensible.
Trudy, of Greyt Exploitations, revealed how the GBGB has not complied with its formal agreement with DEFRA because it has not fully published the methods by which greyhounds left racing in 2017. Independent racing, racing abroad and other uses (which would include for research and/or dissection) are missing, yet they are categories on the GBGB Retirement Forms.
Greyt Exploitations also questioned why track fatalities declined rapidly between 2014 and 2017 while the rates for hock and wrist injuries have nearly doubled. It could be that in the face of having to publish death rates, the industry has taken steps to treat more injured greyhounds or it could simply mean that less greyhounds are destroyed trackside by a vet and more away from the track and by unknown methods – which is concerning.
Greyt Exploitations’ own data showed 798 more injuries than the GBGB statistics. Greyt Exploitations illustrated the point of “missing” greyhounds with reference to a Greyhound Star article which noted that Ireland exported 11,034 greyhounds in 2017 predominantly to the UK. In the same year there were 1,497 British bred greyhounds making a total of 12,531 dogs, yet in 2017 only 8,094 were registered to race on GBGB tracks. Where are these 4,437 greyhounds?
We heard from Greyt Exploitations that the GBGB has failed to to obtain UKAS accreditation of trainers’ kennels by its agreed deadline of December 2017. Although the PAS came into effect in December 2017, UKAS confirmed as recently as 25 October 2018 there has been no extension to the scope of accreditation to include trainers’ kennels.
As if there was nothing left to question, Professor Knight blew some very crucial arguments out of the water. He very interestingly touched on “bony remodelling” whereby a racing greyhound’s skeleton adapts to propulsive forces and reabsorbs calcium from some areas and deposits it in others, increasing the chances of bone fractures.
Prof. Knight provided the GBGB with some food for thought if racing is going to continue in the UK and have a better welfare standard:
Nick Weston described how the League Against Cruel Sports is calling for a phased out ban given the GBGB’s failed attempts at reform, calling it “untenable and unacceptable that these animals have died for someone else’s enjoyment”.
We are posting the presentations we could obtain for our readers’ interest. Please do read them, this was a fact packed meeting with some very revelatory material.
The quote of the night goes to Prof. Andrew Knight: “there is misuse of the term euthanasia by this industry, I am going to use the correct term – killing.”
And action point of the night goes to the two MPs who chaired the debate admirably (Andrea Jenkyns and Anna Turley) – both agreed to keep greyhound welfare uppermost on the Parliamentary agenda. Quite a watershed moment for the greyhounds – APDAWG was an occasion for wider dissemination of some of the complexities of greyhound racing and many members of the audience welcomed the informative content.