Lynn Charlton: Greyhound racing is cruel too

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File photo / Brett Phibbs
File photo / Brett Phibbs

Sir Bob Jones is correct that we are making little progress outside of fashion (whales and elephants) with animal welfare, though the Act is under review later this year and welfare groups are preparing submissions to give it more 'teeth'.

After contemplating fostering a greyhound, I decided to look into the greyhound racing industry with the goal of writing an article. What I have found is in line with The Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand and multiple other greyhound welfare advocacy groups worldwide.

Greyhound racing is industrialised animal cruelty, without a doubt. In each and every race dogs are pitted against each other to chase a fluffy cloth. Their natural capacity for speed accompanies the love all dogs have for exercise, and it is this that is exploited.

Many do not make it home as eager dogs maim and trip each other, collide and 'come together', 'jostling and tightening', get shunted sideways at 60km per hour, blow their toes, tear muscles, suffer severe cramping, tear themselves on lure cogs, and fracture hocks and legs on oval tracks that are good for viewing, but produce worse outcomes for the dogs.

Euthanasia trackside follows.

Each race day reveals a litany of injuries requiring stand downs of days or weeks, sometimes months. In mid-July, 3 dogs were euthanized on 3 consecutive days for breaks and fractures. Yesterday TAKING ORDERS was galloped on top of. This was not an ordinary fall, a relatively common event. Her injuries were such that she was euthanized.

It is unimaginable what those injuries must have been. Last week GUNNA PARTY made firm contact with the outside rail i.e. smashed into the rail at high speed, and such were his injuries he too was killed trackside by lethal injection. He died this way so humans could have fun.

Greyhound racing is an animals-as-entertainment industry, no different from circus and rodeo. Supporters of all these industries claim the animals are well-off, live gorgeous lives, and love what they do. When the animals are burnt out or will not, or cannot comply, they are spat out and replaced by new and younger animals until they too meet the same fate.

Proponents claim to love the dogs. It is racing they love. It is not unusual to see a trainer or owner in tears in the vet's room when their dog, having suffered a snapped leg at 60km is given a lethal injection, only to see that same person a few moments later place another dog in the starting boxes to run another race. Go figure.

Human capacity to rationalize and justify cruelty is based on being motivated by the gains involved, and an inability to face the unpalatable truth. Greyhound racing is akin to dog-fighting in that dogs are left to injure each other and themselves, purely for the purpose of gambling, entertainment and profit.

An estimated 1,000 greyhounds are added to the New Zealand greyhound population every year, 700 from breeding, and 300 imported. Last year, GAP (Greyhounds As Pets) processed 215 adoptions and a few ex racing dogs are rehomed privately.

Many other dogs disappear at around 3, 4 or 5 years of age, the top age for a racing dog. The Greyhound Protection League estimates there are over 10,000 missing dogs. While the industry denies this and does not want to provide figures for what they claim are happily retired dogs living on people's couches, the CEO of Greyhound Racing New Zealand was recently quoted as saying, For various reasons there may be dogs that get put down because people don't have any use for them.

The industry will not come clean on this culling rate for surplus-to-need dogs bred and brought into New Zealand for gambling, because it knows there is something wrong with it. Gambling is a huge problem in NZ and a huge income earner for those profiting from it and they don't want to risk losing profits, and greys are just the pokies on legs.

Some say hound racing is no different to horse racing. Horse racing at least provides riders to steer horses away from colliding with the rail and each other. Imagine the outcry if horses were herded together on a track and encouraged to race at full tilt, racing up the back of each other's legs, pulling each other to the ground, shunting each other sideways. It would be barbaric. Imagine if cattle and sheep were placed in a similar position, pelting around an oval track injuring themselves and other animals while humans stood around watching for amusement as they broke their legs. There would be prosecutions and public outrage. Yet we do this to greys.

Greys slip quietly to their death in this deadly industry, unprotected and unnoticed. Animal welfare authorities and the law have done nothing for them, and there will be other dogs killed this month, August, in exactly the same ways.

Many punters are animal lovers. Many will have dogs at home. Most animal lovers protect their animals from harm. Some may like to take another look at what they're buying into.

As we in the West re-evaluate how we've treated animals and more and more of us make a stand, we will one day look back on the days of greyhound racing and wonder what on earth we were thinking.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak up for these forgotten dogs,

* Lynn Charlton is a psychotherapist of Western Springs.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The writer of this opinion piece initially wrote that Greyhounds as Pets (GAP) rehomes around a hundred ex racing dogs annually. We note that GAP processed 215 adoptions last year. We apologise for the error.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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