Greyhounds should not be ex­ported to China

Bray People - - LIFESTYLE -

I’VE writ­ten be­fore how greyhounds can make ex­cel­lent house pets. They are gen­tle, peace-lov­ing, crea­tures, fit­ting in well to many Ir­ish homes. They only need a short walk ev­ery day, de­spite their rep­u­ta­tions as fast ath­letes. They’re sprint­ers, not long-dis­tance run­ners, so com­pared to en­ergy-filled dogs like Dal­ma­tians and Spaniels, they are couch pota­toes. They love peo­ple, and some of them can even get on well with cats.

I’ve known many greyhounds as pa­tients, and I’ve learned to like them a lot as in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ters. They are sen­si­tive, trust­ing an­i­mals. That’s why so I find it par­tic­u­larly up­set­ting to hear about the lat­est in­ci­dent in the saga of Ir­ish greyhounds be­ing ex­ported over­seas. The an­i­mal wel­fare char­ity, Dogs Trust, re­ported last week that a fur­ther 24 greyhounds were on the way to China. The dogs were not go­ing to some un­known Chi­nese desti­na­tion which might have the po­ten­tial to be some short of utopian ShangriLa for dogs. In­stead they were go­ing to a place that was more like a form of ca­nine hell.

The plan was for them to go to China’s only le­gal Grey­hound track, the Yat Yuen Canidrome in the for­mer Por­tuguese colony of Ma­cau. This track has a de­plorable an­i­mal wel­fare record, with ru­mours that one dog a day is killed be­cause it does not per­form ad­e­quately. A 2011 in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the South China Morn­ing Post re­vealed the Canidrome killed 383 un­der-per­form­ing dogs in 2010, in­stead of mak­ing ef­forts to re­home them. Af­ter pres­sure from an­i­mal wel­fare ac­tivists at the time, the gov­ern­ment forced the Canidrome to set up an adop­tion pro­gramme in­stead of eu­thanas­ing an­i­mals, but lo­cals are scep­ti­cal about its ef­fec­tive­ness, see­ing at as lip ser­vice to rules rather than a gen­uine ef­fort to help the un­wanted greyhounds.

The fu­ture did not look good for the greyhounds that were head­ing out to China this month, but there is hope that the Canidrome may not stay in ac­tion for much longer. It’s strug­gling to sur­vive fi­nan­cially and al­most closed at the end of its lease last Oc­to­ber.

The venue opened in 1931, at a time when grey­hound rac­ing was a pop­u­lar part of a vi­brant so­cial scene. Right up un­til the 1980’s, the Canidrome had a buzz about it, with ex­cite­ment and a touch of glam­our. Lo­cals now say that times have changed, at­ten­dance at races is scanty, and there’s more of a gloomy si­lence than any­thing else, with hun­dreds of empty seats and just a scat­ter­ing of gam­blers.

Re­ports say that it’s strug­gling to make money in a part of China where gam­bling is al­most guar­an­teed to be a suc­cess­ful en­ter­prise. To put this into con­text, the money turned over by the Canidrome in the whole of 2014 could have been made by a neigh­bour­ing casino in just four hours. The financial chal­lenge for the en­ter­prise is made worse by the fact that an­i­mal ac­tivists glob­ally con­tinue to cam­paign against what they view as se­ri­ous an­i­mal wel­fare abuses. It’s dif­fi­cult to see how the Canidrome will be able to stay open for much longer.

Which takes us to the Ir­ish greyhounds. Ire­land pro­duces too many greyhounds for our lo­cal in­dus­try to use, so if rea­son­able sums of money are of­fered from over­seas for rac­ing an­i­mals, it’s tempt­ing for grey­hound breed­ers to ex­port them. This is why lead­er­ship is needed from gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try bod­ies here in Ire­land. We need to have stan­dards for an­i­mal wel­fare, not just for an­i­mals lo­cated here, but also for an­i­mals that start from here and head off some­where else. We should ac­cept an en­dur­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for their care, avoid­ing putting them into sit­u­a­tions where we know that it’s likely that they’ll suf­fer. It isn’t good enough to take the money and run.

If we care about an­i­mal wel­fare enough that we agree to look af­ter them on our own shores, where is the logic that sug­gests that once we leave this coun­try, it doesn’t mat­ter what hap­pens to them?

Three of the ma­jor an­i­mal wel­fare groups in Ire­land, Dogs Trust, the Ir­ish SPCA and The Ir­ish Blue Cross, have been push­ing for im­proved reg­u­la­tion of the grey­hound in­dus­try here in Ire­land, with bet­ter wel­fare pro­vi­sion for all dogs, be­fore they get to the track, when they are rac­ing and when they are re­tired. What­ever about in this coun­try, it will be im­pos­si­ble to take achieve any­thing sim­i­lar for dogs that go to China. That’s why calls are be­ing made to gov­ern­ment, ask­ing that steps are taken to pre­vent the ex­port of th­ese an­i­mals.

Back in 2011, Bord na gCon (the Ir­ish Grey­hound Board) de­cided to ex­clude the ex­port of Ir­ish greyhounds to China from their rac­ing in­dus­try de­vel­op­ment pro­posal fol­low­ing dis­cus­sions with the gov­ern­ment of the day. Fur­ther­more, a state­ment was re­leased at the time that any pro­posal in­volv­ing Bord na gCon and the rac­ing in­dus­try in China would have to give due con­sid­er­a­tion to an­i­mal wel­fare mat­ters. Five years later, what has changed?

The good news is that the protests by an­i­mal wel­fare groups about the greyhounds headed for China had the de­sired im­pact. Their jour­ney was in­ter­rupted in tran­sit, and af­ter reach­ing the UK, they turned back to Ire­land. Th­ese greyhounds will now be fine, and hope­fully, the les­son has now been learned. Enough is enough. Let’s send no more greyhounds to China.

Greyhounds can make ex­cel­lent house pets

PETE WED­DER­BURN

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