We were delighted to attend a very constructive greyhound advocacy conference (#greyglobe) organised by GREY2K USA Worldwide and the Irish Council Against Blood Sports. The event opened with the launch of the excellent and insightful report, “Rewarding Cruelty: Greyhound Racing in Ireland”, compiled by GREY2K USA Worldwide and the Irish Council Against Blood Sports.
Conference interventions revealed how greyhound rescuers battle with “a conveyor belt” of greyhounds saved from near fatal injuries and squalid conditions in Ireland, the UK and Australia. All of this has to be balanced with maintaining relationships with trainers and racing owners without jeopardising the greyhounds’ welfare help.
In the countries where this gambling industry exists, we all seem to be facing similar cruelty issues: overbreeding, fatalities, injuries as well as dismal kennel and transportation standards. While misconceptions about the impact of racing still exist, public opinion is changing rapidly to disgust and loathing. Some of the UK delegates recognised a common experience: that people we interact with in our outreach are surprised racing is still legal.
The most striking momentum for change came from Ireland and Scotland. The RTE Investigates programme in Ireland has literally rocked the nation. It showed numerous failings and among the most pertinent were the Government subsidy for greyhound breeding (since 2001 more than €250m has been paid out) and the fact that 6,000 greyhounds are culled annually in Ireland. The general public is up in arms. A RED C poll in September 2019 revealed that 66% of the Irish public agrees that the Government should cease the funding. The Irish Greyhound Board would not be viable without it.
We learned that the Irish Dáil is being asked to vote in favour of the €16.8m public funds for greyhound breeding in 2020 in a motion “without debate”. This totally contradicts prior parliamentary treatment of the annual subsidy. Plenty of TDs and advocates in the conference will challenge this move and demand a full debate. The allocation of Irish taxpayers’ money for legalised cruelty is all the more galling when contrasted with other initiatives in receipt of Government money: mental health – €2.2m; domestic violence – €20m; sex violence (Rape Crisis / helplines etc.) – €5m.
In the words of one of the speakers, Paul Murphy TD, this has provoked “widespread revulsion” and thankfully the Irish Greyhound Board and its Government supporters are “on the back foot”, they are “very vulnerable on the misuse of public funds”.
Scotland Against Greyhound Exploitation showcased a very professional campaign to outlaw racing in Scotland and they are meeting with quite some success! Their petition to ban greyhound racing in Scotland has been fast tracked to the ECCLR committee for consideration as part of the upcoming Animal Welfare Bill. The petition had one of the biggest public responses to a petition in Holyrood’s history! Their strategic approach was impressive. If they can achieve success in Scotland it will undoubtedly catalyse change in the rest of the UK.
The highest points of the day had to be the case study on ending racing in Florida (from which we all could extrapolate many lessons) and the award ceremony for the “Macau Airlift” team who methodically rescued more than 500 greyhounds from the Macau racetrack when it closed. There has been good follow-up from Australian Senator Mehreen Faruqi to bring about legislation to ban greyhound exports from Australia to prevent a repeat of Macau from happening in the future. Awards were presented to Albano Martins of ANIMA Macau, Stefania Traini of Pet Levrieri and Marion Fitzgibbon of Limerick Animal Welfare for their supreme dedication to greyhound advocacy and homing. Greyhound Compassion contributes funds to Marion’s Limerick shelter from time to time. Marion is a living legend for the greyhounds and she wholeheartedly deserves this life-time achievement award. We offer her many congratulations!