Feeding man’s greed

2009-02-18 00:00

There is a strong lobby at the moment pushing to have greyhound racing legalised in South Africa, which, on the surface, sounds most exciting. It is estimated that 30 000 new jobs will be created and the dogs themselves will be doing what they are born to do, which is to run. Furthermore it is claimed that the public will have another entertaining outdoor activity where the whole family can go on a Sunday afternoon and see the “doggies run” as well as have a little flutter on the races. An all-round win-win situation it seems. Well think again, because nothing could be further from the truth.

It would seem South Africans in general are completely naïve when it comes to this cruel and inhumane “blood sport”. The truth is that greyhound racing is about exploiting man’s best friend in the worst possible way. Unfortunately, whenever animals are used as a resource to make money, they are no longer treated as sentient, intelligent creatures but rather as dispensable commodities to be disposed of when they are no longer of use. Just like broken appliances, these poor dogs are dumped or killed when they have served their usefulness — often being buried in mass graves or left to rot in piles, minus their tattooed ears, which are hacked off to ensure their breeders cannot be traced.

It is very important for compassionate citizens to take heed and oppose dog racing, which is clearly just another form of gambling, but this time with the lives of our faithful companions.

Here are some questions readers had about the sport:

Is greyhound racing a good thing or a bad thing?

For all those who stand to profit and prosper financially from the industry I suppose it’s a good thing, but for the dogs, animal lovers and welfare shelters it is a living nightmare.

Why does the SPCA want to ban dog racing when we’ve never had it here before?

Actually, you are wrong. Illegal, highly organised dog racing is already taking place right under our noses in KwaZulu-Natal, the Cape and Gauteng, but it’s obviously on a smaller scale.

I’ve heard that if dog racing is legalised in South Africa, it would be closely regulated and there wouldn’t be any cruelty.

That would be wonderful. However, our police force is unable or unwilling to prevent illegal racing right now, so I don’t think we can depend much on them to help. Historically, self-regulation has been a disastrous failure in dog racing countries and seems to have been nothing more that a formality to impress the public.

We have horse racing here already, so why all the fuss about dog racing now?

Both are subject to abuse, as still happens with many ex-racehorses.

Once dogs or horses have served their purpose, or can’t run fast enough anymore, they are no longer cost-effective and are disposed of by their owners. Some find homes, a few are used for breeding, while many are neglected and abused, or retired with a bullet to the head.

The main difference is that dogs are logistically easier to conceal, less costly and breed more rapidly. Greyhounds can produce two litters of 12 pups every six months. And it seems the more puppies you have, the more to there are to choose from, and the better your chance of breeding a winner.

How many racing dogs are we talking about here? Are there any statistics available so that we may have a better idea of the impact of such an industry?

Understandably, there are no South African figures available; however, animal welfare shelters are guided by information about the shocking carnage left by dog racing in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

It seems in each of these countries 45 000 greyhound puppies are registered every year, of which only a small minority ever reach the tracks due to poor performance, injuries and disease, which leaves about 35 000 unwanted animals per country, per year, that must be disposed of.

Of these dogs, about 20 000 per country, per year, are killed, while the rest are shipped off to Third World countries for bush hunting or to China where dog meat is a staple food. They are also recycled as cheap carcass meal used in the manufacture of pet food. Many more land up in laboratories where they suffer in the name of medical research. A great number are simply abandoned (some still wearing muzzles) and starve to death or die from abuse, disease, neglect and injury. A lucky few are rescued by overstretched welfare shelters where the dogs are adopted or at least given a humane end.

Are greyhound training methods cruel?

It is estimated that in the U.S. alone, 100 000 cats, rabbits and rejected greyhound puppies are used as live-bait lures, to be torn apart and devoured by hungry greyhounds during training for speed and performance. Even mechanical lures used at meets are often made of domestic cat skins.

How are the dogs kept?

They are kept in small wire cages, often in appalling conditions, very much like puppy mills. The dogs are underfed and only taken out of their cages to train for approximately an hour a day. Both dogs and breeding bitches are often found dead with healed fractures and broken bones that were never treated.

The crème de la crème have a running life span of four years and are generally better treated, before they too are disposed of or used as stud.

It a sad day when man must feed his greed for money with the suffering of others.

• Glynne Anderson is a pet behaviour consultant and professional dog handler, who has appeared on radio and TV to talk about animals and their problems. She can be contacted at k9acad@iafrica.com or by phoning 031 765 1958.

• For more information, visit www.peta.org/mc/facts/fsent2.html or http://www.greyhounds.org/gpl/contents/entry.html

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