People attending Shelbourne Park Greyhound Stadium on Saturday last (20th July) were booed, a number of passing cars and vans blew their horns in support of protesters but one dog racing supporter assaulted a protester. The picketers quoted an RTÉ television documentary that the industry is killing large numbers of dogs annually; they want an end to Irish Government funding for the industry and dog racing banned.
A quick trawl through Google reveals greyhound track or stadium protests at a number of venues in Ireland as well as Dublin, including Cork, Limerick and Newbridge and there are campaigns to ban greyhound racing in a number of other countries (although apparently dog racing only exists in another eight countries world-wide).
The protesters on Saturday chanted a number of slogans, including “You bet, they die!”, a reference to people betting on the outcome of the races and to the high death-toll of dogs bred for activity. Greyhound bitches are bred to what are considered successful dogs and breeders will choose pups to raise from the litters, killing the rest. Only some dogs are considered suitable for racing and after trial, some more will be killed (or perhaps sold abroad, which may even be worse). Finally, when their racing life is over, most will be killed also. The industry says it finds homes for old or worn-out greyhounds but there are not enough homes to take them all in.
The Irish Government funds the industry to the tune 16M euro and campaigners say this is not justifiable to fund an industry killing dogs for profit-making. In addition, according to the RTÉ documentary 7,000 dogs are exported to Britain, effectively sustaining their industry – on Irish tax-payers’ money. Some of these dogs are transported from Ireland in unhygienic conditions, even by people who are banned from the greyhound industry in Britain for doping or keeping dogs in bad conditions, since their bans are only effective in Britain itself.
Doping of dogs has increased enormously in Ireland and Britain, according to people inside the industry but very few have been charged or the kennel breeders sanctioned by the industry’s regulating body. The RTÉ team found that 80% of animal doping chemicals seized over the years have come from greyhound kennels, but more than 50% seized in a three-year period came from one dog trainer, Mr. Gerry Holian in Athenry.
The film also showed dogs being badly treated abroad and produced evidence to show that restrictions on their export from Ireland and Britain are routinely evaded.
VIOLENCE TOWARDS PROTESTERS
Early during the protest last Saturday, a man physically attacked a woman protester outside the Shelbourne Stadium. Witnesses gave evidence to Gardaí who advised them to go to a Garda station and make a complaint, without explaining why they themselves would not act upon the reported crime. Some Public Order Unit Gardaí arrived soon afterwards and some of the protesters, including the assaulted woman, did go to the station and made a complaint.
Four days after the Dublin protest and the attack on a protester, the Irish Greyhound Board posted the following statement:
The IGB would request, and based on the strong advice from An Garda Siochana, that the greyhound community would not engage in any form of ‘counter protest’ at greyhound tracks and stadia as such activity is likely to enflame an already volatile situation and result in an unsafe environment for all. Such outcomes do not reflect well on anybody, including the greyhound community.
A SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ACTIVITY?
Of course for many people attending dog racing, who will be unaware of the high death-toll endemic to the industry, it seems a harmless night out. Even many who do not attend dog racing will be unaware of the cost to the dogs. The RTÉ Investigates TV documentary Racing for Their Lives quoted figures from a commissioned report that 6,000 greyhounds are killed every year. That report was kept secret by the Irish Greyhound Board until the RTÉ Investigates team revealed they had a copy of the Report and then the IGP released sections of it. As the protests continue, even those who have not seen the program will become increasingly aware.
In many working-class communities greyhound racing has been a participative activity for individuals owning one or two dogs, as outlined in “The Town I Love So Well”:
In the early morning the shirt-factory horn
Called women from Creggan, the Moor and the Bog
While the man on the dole played the mother’s role,
Fed the children and then trained the dogs.
This activity is not comparable in scale, turnover or treatment with the dog-racing industry of greyhound breeding and training establishments and racing stadia and, in any case, is much reduced as a passtime now.
There are 16 dog-racing stadia within the Irish state and two in the Six Counties. Currently protests are organised outside Shelbourne Stadium for two evenings a week, Tuesdays and Saturdays, while protesters at other stadia have their own arrangements.
REFERENCES AND LINKS
Petition to ask Irish food company GLANBIA, producer of the dog-food brand GAIN, to stop sponsoring Greyhound racing: https://www.change.org/p/jimtracy-glanbia-ie-tell-gain-pet-nutrition-to-stop-sponsoring-greyhound-racing/psf/promote_or_share
RTÉ Investigates program “Running For Their Lives”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYTb2qBjlMM
Official and company reactions to the RTÉ documentary: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/sponsors-horrified-by-rt%C3%A9-programme-on-greyhound-racing-1.3942232