It’s hard to resist RTÉ’s Reeling in the Years because it gives a glimpse into days gone by that also gives us a glimpse of how things may or may not have changed in this country.
he latest series, focusing on the years 2010 to 2019, got me thinking about 2012, the year I started this column, which led to her first “Letter to the Editor” just over a month later, which is now from the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) CEO Greyhound Racing Ireland (GRI), in response to an article I wrote about the whereabouts of the thousands of dogs bred annually when they are no longer able to race.
At the time, the industry kept no record of how many dogs were retired, although figures showed nearly 900 ended up in state pounds in 2010, where two-thirds were killed, while the grisly remains of more were regularly disposed of.
Some things have changed since then, such as the amount of government funding, which has skyrocketed from €11 million in 2012 to €18.2 million for 2023, compared to €17.6 million this year were distributed.
The number of dying and injured dogs has also risen, with at least 2,000 greyhounds killed and nearly 18,000 injured between 2019 and 2021. But who knows the real number as the industry is still not reporting any fatalities or injuries. There is also no veterinary presence at events.
All of this is clearly fine with Treasury Secretary Paschal Donohoe. But not for those who really love their greyhounds.
“Each week more decent people are leaving the sport because of the way it’s run,” says Tony Walsh of the Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation.
Walsh was the only industry member willing to be interviewed in 2019 RTÉ investigates: greyhounds running for their lives. The ITUC then lodged a complaint with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland against the program, claiming it was a biased attack on the industry, which was dismissed.
“The industry is worse off now than it was before,” says Walsh. “This is a scandalous waste of Irish taxpayers’ money.”
Certainly, visitor numbers continue to fall, with a report commissioned by GRI itself confirming “a significant drop in visitor numbers over the last decade”.
The latest statistics show that less than half of those attending racing events at GRI-owned stadiums in the first five months of this year were paying members of the public, with the majority being industry insiders.
One might think that explains why the current chairman told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture in 2019 that “the industry would not be financially viable without exporting dogs”. Until you’re stunned by figures showing that the reported 6,300 dogs exported to the UK each year are being sold at a loss of almost €5,000 each.
But there is good news as the greyhound and gambling industry is estimated to be worth £2.6bn (€3bn) in revenue. Unfortunately, that’s in Britain, where the government doesn’t give state handouts. This means Irish taxpayers are essentially paying to deliver 85 per cent of their greyhounds to them.
No one knows what will happen to these Irish bred dogs once they are no longer able to make money for their owners. And there’s still no record for the thousands of dogs born here each year who never make it, which the industry calls a “waste” because it only tracks the dogs that are in the Race Management System from around 12 to 12 years old 14 months are registered.
There are claims Irish taxpayers are also supplying dogs to China’s racing and gambling industries, judging from photos on rescue sites such as Caged Nationwide of greyhounds with their snouts taped shut. Despite efforts to disguise their origins, documents show former winners whose last race was at Waterford, Dundalk or an English circuit before being exported to a country where it is legal to skin dogs alive and cook them .
Volunteers who rescue dogs at Chinese meat markets say the greyhound has become the third most popular breed found in the slaughterhouses.
It’s enough to make you falter.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/lay-of-the-land-grisly-greyhound-industry-keeps-reeling-in-the-readies-42069532.html State of the Country: Gruesome greyhound industry continues to reel in preparations