Racing in Ireland & Scotland

Greyhound racing in Scotland

There are two greyhound tracks in Scotland where racing takes place. The official Greyhound Board of Great Britain track at Shawfield in Rutherglen, Glasgow and Thornton, an independent ‘flapper’ track near Glenrothes in Fife.

In recent years there were two GBGB tracks, the other being Powderhall in Edinburgh which closed in 1995 and 7 independent flapper tracks, the last closure being Halcrow at Gretna in 2017. A new track at Wallyford, East Lothian was given planning permission in 2005 and the grandstand erected in anticipation. After a long fight lasting many years which saw the developer continually adjust the plans, planning permission lapsed in March 2020.

Animal welfare is devolved to the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood and as such, the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 protects every dog in Scotland including racing greyhounds. It also means that any decision to ban greyhound racing in Scotland will only be taken by the Scottish government.

Thankfully, greyhound racing is in decline in Scotland with both Shawfield and Thornton only holding one race meeting per week. Both tracks state there aren’t enough greyhounds left in Scotland to enable them to hold more meetings although there are several larger Scottish kennels who travel to tracks in the North East of England to race, namely Newcastle, Sunderland and Pelaw Grange.

This year, one of the largest and most notorious racing and breeding kennels, Target in Hawick, Borders, closed after two dogs tested positive for cocaine at Newcastle track in 2019. This was the culmination of two years of consistent doping by Scottish trainers.

Between 2009 and 2017 there were 15 positive tests including 13 from Shawfield but 2018/19 saw a massive increase in the numbers with 16 positives which included 13 from Shawfield.

Those 13 tests included 5 for cocaine and others for steroids, stimulants, beta blockers, analgesics and antidepressants. GBGB stated that as a result, the numbers of tests being carried out at Shawfield were increased. Drugging racing greyhounds is a clear breach of the AHW (Scotland) Act 2006 and also therefore breaks the law but incredibly, not one single prosecution has taken place despite our best efforts to make this happen.

If we take the number of ‘runs’ quoted in the injury and death statistics produced for 2018 which was 426,139 and 410,607 for 2019 and the number of samples quoted in the Greyhound Commitment as ‘more than 15,000’ for October 2017-September 2018 and ‘more than 8000’ for October 2017-September 2018, it shows the approximate percentage of dogs drug tested in the UK to be 3.52% in 2018 and 1.95% in 2019. The figures are approximate as the dates for each year are out by 3 months but this is the GBGB being fully transparent! We know the GBGB have not reported one single doping offence to the Procurator as they told us they did at a meeting of the Cross Party Group on Animal Welfare at the Scottish Parliament. 

On 2nd September 2019 a routine inspection by the Stipendiary Steward of a kennel run by a trainer named Chris Sillars, found a black greyhound by the name of Dudleys Forever in a condition described by the Steward as ‘the worst condition of a greyhound I have seen.’  In his opinion it was a matter of animal cruelty. Dudleys Forever was taken to a veterinary surgeon where she was found to weigh 16.3kg with a body score condition of 1/5 and sadly euthanised. The Disciplinary Committee found this to be a breach of the AHW (Scotland) Act and urged the GBGB to send the details of the case to the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service in Edinburgh. We ourselves reported Dudleys Forever’s case to Police Scotland and the SSPCA. No prosecution has taken place to date. 

As a group, we are Associate Members of the Cross Party Group for Animal Welfare at Holyrood and in October 2018 we presented to the Group our reasons why greyhound racing should be banned in Scotland. The GBGB were invited to reply and attended in April 2019. Their presentation consisted of a PR exercise for the Greyhound Commitment which we maintain is unachievable. Two promises were made in front of MSPs that night by Mark Bird, Director, and Simon Gower, Chief Veterinary Officer, the first being that the ‘Injury not treated on economic grounds’ tick box would be removed from the Retirement Form for GBGB Registered Greyhounds. Secondly that the GBGB Rules of Racing would be amended to include the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 in Rule 2. Unsurprisingly, neither of these promises have been fulfilled and so we still have the ludicrous situation where dogs at Shawfield are running under English welfare regulations according to the GBGB. We will also continue to press for injury and death statistics to be produced independently for Scotland as we believe this is right under devolved animal welfare.

Shawfield Stadium

Racing in Ireland & Scotland

Greyhound Racing in Ireland

The first greyhound race track in Ireland was opened on 18th April 1927 in Belfast, followed shortly thereafter by a second track at Shelbourne Park in Dublin.

Currently there are 14 greyhound tracks in Southern Ireland – Galway, Dublin, Dundalk, Enniscorthy, Kilkenny, Mullingar, Newbridge, Clonmel, Cork, Limerick, Thurles, Tralee, Waterford and Youghal. In 2019 two further tracks were shut down, Lifford and Longford.
These all are under the control of Bord na gCon which was renamed Rásaíocht Con Éireann (RCE) (Greyhound Racing Ireland) in 2020.

In Northern Ireland there are two further greyhound tracks – Drumbo and Derry. However these tracks are under the control of the Irish Coursing Club (ICC).

Greyhound Racing Ireland is a commercial semi-state body charged with regulating and promoting greyhound racing in Ireland since its founding in July 1958. It reports to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Since 2001 the Irish government has granted €273 million to the greyhound racing industry.
Some of this funding is taken from a levy on all gambling in Ireland, which has been ring-fenced for the industry.
In 2020 the amount granted was €16.8m. Without this funding the greyhound racing industry would be ‘goosed’ as claimed by one Irish politician in 2019.

Despite very generous funding from the Irish taxpayer, attendances at greyhound tracks have been in freefall and this trend has continued forward.

Graphic from Greyhound Awareness Cork

Greyhound racing in Ireland is an industry imbued with controversy.
But perhaps a pivotal moment in Irish greyhound racing occurred on 26 June 2019 when one of the country’s mainstream TV stations broadcast a programme named RTÉ Investigates: Greyhounds Running for Their Lives.
The programme revealed many of the industry’s harsh realities but the most shocking information was laid bare through the publication of the Preferred Results Report which had been commissioned by the industry in 2017 at a cost of €115,000 but hidden even from the Department of Agriculture and the Irish Government. On page 26 of the report it was stated that an annual average of almost six thousand greyhounds were killed because they were no longer of use to the industry.—igb-organisation-restructuring-report—pages-1—65-compressed.pdf

The final scene of the programme was the most heart-wrenching. Nobody could have prepared for this horrendous scene when a beautiful innocent but unwanted greyhound defecated themselves in fear as they were dragged off into the knackery to be shot in the back of the head while the owner waited in his van for the dog’s collar and lead.

However, in addition to the greyhounds culled by the industry due to their unsuitableness or lack of profitability, we must add to those figures, the number of greyhounds killed at Irish tracks.
These figures have been published following requests for information to the Department of Agriculture.

Graphic from Ban Bloodsports

Years earlier the man ‘credited with building the Irish greyhound industry’  said that it was okay to kill thousands of greyhounds. During an interview on Cork’s 96FM (3rd May 2017), Paschal Taggart, a former chairman of the Irish Greyhound Board, was asked “Do you believe it’s okay for thousands of dogs to be killed in the name of entertainment?”
“I absolutely do,” was Taggart’s appalling response. He stated: “Most of them [the dogs] are kept alive – sorry, some of them are kept alive – and there are ones at the end of their time – they’re injured or that – I do [believe it’s okay to kill them].”

In 2017 the world was shocked to hear that a greyhound named ‘Clonbrien Hero’ tested positive for cocaine thrice during The Laurels competition at Curaheen track in Cork.
The greyhound had won the heats final.
In 2020 the industry’s Control Committee declared that the trainer of ‘Clonbrien Hero’ had ‘no case to answer’ which resulted in the 1st prize of €30,000 being paid out to the dog’s owner/trainer.—2020.pdf

The Irish greyhound industry has always been dogged by issues of greyhounds testing positive for banned and prohibited illegal substances such as methamphetamine, steroids, cocaine etc. Here is a short excerpt from an investigative programme on the issue.
According to the industry’s reports approximately 6% of starting greyhounds at races are tested for drugs, therefore at least 94% of starters are NOT tested. Because of the issues with greyhound drugging, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) mandated that as of 1st  Jan 2107, all greyhounds from Ireland who present for competition in the UK must first provide a negative test for drugs.

Greyhound welfare is the top priority for owners of rescued greyhounds all over the world. However, the word ‘welfare’ does not appear in the Irish greyhound industry’s Mission Statement. The industry has a term for their unwanted dogs – ‘wastage’. The industry has a rehoming department but it rehomes less than one thousand greyhounds per year, mainly outside Ireland. Yet in 2019 there were 2324 litters registered, so almost 14,000 individual pups (using an average of 6 pups per litter).
Approximately 6,000 Irish greyhounds a year are registered to race in the UK. It is estimated that 83% of the racing greyhounds in the UK are of Irish origin.

The recent increased awareness about racing greyhounds has led to the Irish public realising that rescued greyhounds make wonderful pets and there has been a huge increase in the number of greyhound adoptions in Ireland. This has also resulted in more people realising that greyhounds deserve to be treated as sentient creatures not as a commodity, and perhaps this is the tipping point where the public objects to the Irish government’s funding of the racing industry and decide that allowing the industry to self regulate will never prevent the exploitation of racing greyhounds.

Photo credit Greyhound Awareness Cork

For further information on greyhound racing in Ireland, please use the following resources.