There has been prominent coverage this week of ongoing issues with the greyhound racing industry in the UK and the estimated 3700 dogs that are still disappearing annually at the end of their racing careers. Headlines in the Sun, the Times and the Independent newspapers were prompted by the publication of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee report on Greyhound welfare published this month. There are around 15,000 active racing greyhounds in the UK today and it is estimated up to 80% of these greyhounds would have been bred in Ireland.
Some key statements from the report:
- “The Society of Greyhound Veterinarians identified this [rehoming] issue as their key welfare worry…by far the greatest single welfare issue of concern in the U.K. greyhound industry is the euthanasia of healthy greyhounds no longer required for racing.”
- In 2014, the Bookmakers Afternoon Greyhound Service (BAGS) paid £26 million to tracks for the rights to televise daytime races put on for bookmakers. BAGS currently contracts with 20 tracks to broadcast approximately 29,000 greyhound races a year into UK betting shops. This represents about 55% of the total number of greyhound races run in the UK. The 2007 Lord Donoghue Report into the industry found that: “If were it not for BAGS, there would no longer be a sustainable licensed greyhound racing industry in Great Britain.” We find no reason to disagree with this statement today. The all-day racing schedules of BAGS requires large numbers of dogs. As seen in the previous chapter, the quantity of dogs entering the industry a year does not appear to correspond with the number of available rehoming places. Another consequence of high demand, as identified by the Donoghue report, is the wastage of those bred for racing but that do not make the grade as racers.
- BAGS racing supports the majority of all betting income and sustains the continued viability of the sport. However, it also drives high demand for dogs with potentially negative consequences for overbreeding and post-racing welfare.
For the years 2011 to 2013, 47,702 greyhounds were named/registered for racing in Ireland. 18,690 were exported for the UK race tracks. We hope this broad coverage of failings within the UK industry will help to highlight the similar issues facing Irish greyhounds, and act as stimulus for further investigation into greyhound welfare and overbreeding in Ireland.
Video coverage from Sky News: