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Why is greyhound racing cruel?

Injuries + Death

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According to the Animal Welfare Act 2006: Section 9.

Duty of person responsible for animal to ensure welfare

            2. (e) its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

 “Greyhound racing is inherently dangerous. Greyhounds race at high speeds in conditions which make injuries almost inevitable.”

(Hansen 2017)

Every year in the UK there are just under 5,000 injuries recorded, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of greyhounds with treatable injuries.

 

2017

2018

2019

Injuries

4,837

4,963

4,970

 

 

 

 

Greyhounds with injuries killed trackside

257

242

207

Greyhounds killed as trainers/owners did not want to pay treatment cost

370

175

123

Greyhounds with injuries killed for poor prognosis, away from track

144

142

 

 

 

 

Total Killed for injuries

627

561

472

Greyhound Board of Great Britain injury data

For over 40 years there have been many studies into racing greyhound injuries highlighting the damage the simple act of racing does to the bodies of greyhounds.

Categories
Why is greyhound racing cruel?

Drugging

The greyhound racing industry has a long and extensive history of animal welfare abuse related to the use of banned substances and illegal drugs. These include a range of drugs and banned substances that have been identified regularly in test samples- e.g. of hair and urine – taken from dogs involved in racing. These tests being performed are part of the racing industry’s own attempts to reassure the betting public of the integrity of racing, by trying to promote it as fair and above board.

But is it actually fair and above board on the greyhounds used within this commercial industry, when we look at their experiences involving drugs in a commercial industry?

How do greyhounds ingest drugs?

Firstly we need to understand that performance enhancing drugs are used to affect the track performance of a dog, and this includes a class A substance, cocaine. 

Cocaine is a performance enhancing drug. Its known effects on dogs include increased heart rate, more blood pumped to the heart and lungs, and increased action / speed. It is also an illegal Class A drug and there are usually legal consequences for those people found with it, using it or supplying it in wider society.

We know from the independent press and TV exposures

https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/sport/article/greyhounds-cocaine

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/greyhound-race-cocaine-drug-dog-racecourse-sniffing-out-a8867926.html

that racing greyhounds have been given cocaine along with other drugs used to affect performance, with the aim of  ‘rigging the betting’ or put simply, cheating.

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Why is greyhound racing cruel?

Poor welfare

Racing Greyhounds in Hot Weather

Heat related illnesses occur when the body’s cooling mechanisms are overwhelmed, causing the body temperature to reach a level that disturbs the normal cell function. This results in the release of chemical and toxins from cells, damaging organs (especially the brain, heart and kidneys), and can result in death. 

The body’s cooling mechanisms can be challenged in two ways, exposure to a high environmental temperature (hot weather or hot car) or when the body accumulates heat due to strenuous exercise, known as exertional hyperthermia or exertional heat stroke [1].

In June 2020, a study into pet dogs admitted to veterinary practices in the UK for heat related illness, showed that greyhounds were the 5th most common breed admitted, four times more likely than most breeds[2].  This is because greyhounds, even though they have little fat and a thin coat, have high lean muscle mass – 60% of their bodyweight [3], and muscle produces heat when active (have you ever felt the warmth coming off greyhounds at rest?).

Greyhounds following even short periods of strenuous exercise, commonly exhibit significant symptoms of exertional hyperthermia, such as cramps and fatigue [4], as greyhounds expend almost as much energy in the first 7.5 s of a race as in the subsequent 22 s [5].

A high body temperature, either from exercise or the environment, and strenuous exercise alone  all cause muscle fibres to break down (rhabdomyolysis) which causes the rapid release of chemical from the muscle cells as well as myoglobin, a protein that damages the kidney as it is cleared from the body, potentially resulting in acute kidney failure and death [6].

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Why is greyhound racing cruel?

Disappearing dogs

The greyhound racing industry seeks to hide the truth about the numbers of dogs bred and numbers of dogs homed once the industry has finished with its victims.

Overbreeding

As far as the GBGB are concerned, only registered dogs can race on their tracks. Registration is merely a case of noting microchip and other dog recognition details – no interest is given to where the dog came from.  Thus, the breeding part of the business conveniently falls outside their “self regulatory” scope. This stance is useful for a variety of reasons, chiefly that the breeding of racing greyhounds is a very competitive business with a high “wastage” rate, as the industry terms it. For many years, those opposed to greyhound racing have claimed that around one third of the greyhounds bred for racing are killed annually, by analysing and comparing publicly available breeding and racing information.

Though the lack of GBGB governance is pitiful, the majority of dogs racing on regulated tracks in the UK are actually from Ireland, where the racing industry is regulated by a government mandated body – The Irish Greyhound Board (Bord na gCon), and the breeding is regulated “at arms length” by a separate entity,  the Irish Coursing Club, all of which is set up under a variety of laws. This separation of concerns again obfuscates the relationship between the number of dogs bred and the number that make it to the track.  

In 2019, the television program RTE Investigates aired a programme based on information from an internal report commissioned by the Irish Greyhound Board that had been suppressed due to its damning conclusions regarding welfare, in particular the fact that 6,000 greyhounds are killed annually. The redacted report published by the IGB in response to the programme is available here. One of the interesting conclusions was that the IGB is not a racing orientated business, but a breeding orientated business. 

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Why is greyhound racing cruel?

Imports

According to an independent Preferred Results Ltd report commissioned by Greyhound Racing Ireland in 2017, over 83% of the racing greyhound pool in the UK originates in Ireland.

The report also states that racing greyhounds ‘are exported to the UK, for prices that are less than 50% of their actual production cost’
https://www.grireland.ie/globalassets/talking-dogs/pr/preferred-results—igb-organisation-restructuring-report—pages-1—65-compressed.pdf.

However a more recent article published in Greyhound Star on 10th July 2020 states that ‘around 90% of UK racers are Irish bred.’ According to the same article, the ‘total  number of matings (in Ireland) for the first six months of the year’ has dropped ‘to 1,195 from 1,588’. That represents a 30.4% decline with no immediate likelihood of an upturn.’
http://greyhoundstar.co.uk/greyhound-breeding-freefall/

The Irish greyhound racing industry’s reputation in relation to the doping of greyhounds is well established. Greyhounds in Ireland have tested positive for cocaine, barbiturates, ketamine, Viagra, cannabis, beta-blockers, Ritalin, and morphine – to name just a tiny number of the substances found.