Once revered dogs of nobility, the lot of greyhounds changed in 1926 when commercial racing started in the UK in Manchester at Belle Vue, when they became disposable gambling commodities.
A gambling product
There are 19 tracks regulated by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB), and 3 independent greyhound tracks (also known as ‘flapping’ tracks). Which are meant to be overseen by local authorities. The dogs race interchangeably on both sets of tracks. There used to be over 122 tracks in the UK.
The Henlow greyhound track is still operating but planning permission for property development was approved in September 2020. Its closure date is not yet known.
Live streaming of greyhound racing is big business
Although the number of spectators going to the races is in sharp decline, this demise has a negligible impact on the racing business and the number of dogs required. True, stadia are closing (e.g. Walthamstow, Wimbledon, Poole, Belle Vue) but the problem is the live streaming of greyhound racing worldwide around the internet and into high street bookmakers. This is big business. Races are streamed from 8.30am (to serve the Eastern European market) until around 10pm every day, 7 days a week. There are an average of 148 races a day just for the gambling industry, consisting of 6 greyhounds per race, running counter clockwise on oval tracks. There are other races, ‘open’ races which are in decline and the trialing of dogs at tracks too.
Greyhounds are racing at empty tracks to provide this gambling product. It is a multi-million Pound gambling industry.
Opacity in greyhound racing
The total population of racing dogs is not known because the GBGB does not disclose these figures. Estimates put the number between 14,000 – 20,000. In 2018, for the first time since racing started in 1926, the GBGB published figures for injuries, deaths and redundant dogs after some pressure from DEFRA and the EFRA Select Committee.
The GBGB statistics need to be more transparent. They do not include young ‘sapling’ greyhounds who are culled because they do not make the grade. The trainer retention figures are not sustainable. It is impossible for trainers to keep hundreds of redundant greyhounds year on year. Nobody is auditing the fate of these dogs with the passing of time. The data does not include the number of greyhounds ‘pending’ in greyhound trainers’ kennels. The GBGB’s CEO put this ‘dog clog’ at 5,000 greyhounds.
The inextricable link with Ireland
Eighty – eighty three per cent of greyhounds racing in the UK are bred in Ireland.
Reflecting the excess about 6,250 greyhounds are exported annually to the UK at prices which are less than 50% of the ‘production cost’. 6,000 greyhounds are killed every year in Ireland, and Great Britain’s greyhound racing industry directly contributes to these deaths.