Greyhound stadiums criticised for promoting races to children and families

by darylz44986601

File image of greyhound racing Alamy stock photo

THE MORNING LEAD

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said the ‘reality’ of the industry is being hidden from children.

GREYHOUND RACING IRELAND has been criticised by animal rights activists for advertising nightly races to families and children.

Several greyhound stadiums are described on the Greyhound Racing Ireland website as welcoming “all ages” and say that “greyhound racing is one of those rare occasions that all the family can enjoy together”.

It also describes a Night at the Dogs as a “great way to celebrate a First Communion or Confirmation in the family”. 

Gearóid O’Dowd, the secretary of the Party for Animal Welfare, told The Journal that he regularly protests outside greyhound tracks.

“I have seen over and over again that as people queue up, hen parties and stag parties roll up in taxis and fall out the doors of the taxis,” said O’Dowd.

“They are then queuing up alongside parents with children, sometimes with children in buggies.

“I don’t know what the scene is like inside the greyhound track itself, we only see the situation as they’re queuing up.”

It is unlawful for anyone under 18 to enter casinos or bookmakers, let alone make a bet.

A bill to regulate gambling is currently making its way through the Dáil that intends to “protect children and prevent harm to people vulnerable to problem gambling”. It will include a prohibition on the broadcast of gambling advertising on television and radio between the hours of 5.30am and 9pm. 

However, the bill will not prevent children from attending greyhound or horse racing tracks and family racedays will not be affected.

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for Greyhound Racing Ireland said:”Rásaíocht Con Éireann (RCÉ) warmly welcomes young people to our racing events across the country.

“Our stadia are family-friendly and safe venues and provide wonderful entertainment for people of all ages.

“There are thousands of children throughout Ireland who are rightly proud of their greyhound heritage, and we look forward to many of them being directly involved in the future development and success of our sport.”

In a further statement, a spokesperson said RCÉ / Greyhound Racing Ireland operates in accordance with existing gambling legislation.

“RCÉ also is a participant in, and contributor to, the Gambling Awareness Trust and gamblingcare.ie,” the statement added.

However, O’Dowd criticised the industry for ‘encouraging’ children to attend the races. 

“You have face-painting, over Christmas they have Santa Claus at tracks, they will stoop to anything and they have no shame, it’s a disgrace.”

Horse racing meets also advertise to families and children 

Greyhound stadiums are not alone in encouraging families to attend; horse racing meets in Ireland are also advertised as being family friendly, with venues such as Punchestown Racecourse describing itself as “the place to be for your next family day out”. Children under 14 also can gain free entry when accompanied by an adult.

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for Horse Racing Ireland said it that been ‘assured’ by Junior Minister James Browne and his officials that family racedays will not be impacted by the Gambling Regulation Bill. 

The spokesperson said that family days were ‘hugely popular’ and included dedicated entertainment for children, away from areas where betting takes place. 

“It goes without saying that children do not attend race meetings unattended and the law of the land forbids any person under the age of 18 from placing a bet,” they said. 

Speaking to The Journal, People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said it’s “very inappropriate that greyhound racing is marketed and advertised as being a family friendly event, which it isn’t”.

Murphy added: “I think greyhound tracks are a place of gambling.

“Essentially, the greyhound industry does not exist without gambling and the whole thing is based around gambling.

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File photo of greyhounds racing.

“In a way, the greyhound track is like a big outdoor bookies with added animal cruelty,” said Murphy. 

The People Before Profit TD also remarked: “This industry that’s pretty much based around gambling, there shouldn’t be children present at it just as children aren’t allowed in bookies.”

How children see greyhound racing

O’Dowd added that children will see a “sanitised version” of greyhound racing during their visits.

“They won’t see the bad side of greyhound racing,” O’Dowd told The Journal.

“That’s the danger, that they might think it’s a nice and innocent thing, but it will be hidden from them what these greyhounds go through.”

Murphy agreed, and told The Journal: “Children love animals but this hides the reality of what is a very cruel industry which has seen thousands of greyhounds killed every year because they are not fast enough.

“If the children knew that they wouldn’t be happy about it at all.”

In 2019, an RTÉ investigation claimed that close to 6,000 greyhounds were killed in 2019 for not racing fast enough.

The then-chief executive of the Irish Greyhound Board Gerard Dollard told the 2019 RTÉ documentary: “I accept there is an issue in relation to unaccounted-for dogs. I think the figures that are being thrown out are, in fact, well in excess of what the actual figure is because of a number of exports to the UK and elsewhere.”

In a statement to The Journal, Greyhound Racing Ireland stated that the “welfare and care of a greyhound must at all times take precedence over the demands of the stakeholders and all those involved in the greyhound industry”.

But O’Dowd told The Journal that the dogs on the track are the “lucky ones”, and even they can come to harm.

“It’s not just about the ones that make it on to the track – the ones on the track are probably the lucky ones,” said O’Dowd. “They’ll be kept as long as they’re fast.”

“If the greyhounds are too slow, they’re not kept, they’re killed one way or another.”

Meanwhile, O’Dowd noted that under Irish law, greyhounds are officially regarded as agricultural animals and not as domestic pets.

“So you don’t need to have a license for any of them” said O’Dowd. “It’s money and they’re not treated as pets.”

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File image of greyhound racing SHUTTERSTOCK / IRMA07


SHUTTERSTOCK / IRMA07 / IRMA07

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for Greyhound Racing Ireland said it launched a new traceability system in January 2021.

Data from the system as of the end of March 2023 indicates 38,858 greyhounds were subject to this traceability.

The spokesperson added: “Registered greyhounds are tracked through all stages of life, including birth, microchipping, racing career, changes of ownership/trainer, location, export, retirement, and end of life.”

The spokesperson also noted that owners, trainers, and breeders are required to maintain an accurate record for individual greyhounds on a traceability system, which can be done online or via a mobile app. 

Failure to do so results in all greyhounds associated with the owner in question being suspended from the racing system until records have been updated.

The spokesperson added that this traceability system is “one of several care and welfare initiatives progressed since 2019″.

Other initiatives include an expanded inspection programme for greyhound establishments.

‘Politicians afraid of their life’

The Government recently allocated €19.2 million to Greyhound Racing Ireland as part of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund.

Speaking in the Dáil, Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue said this funding is an “important pillar of Government policy” that ensures the racing industries achieve their maximum potential”.

This announcement in the Dáil last year sparked a backlash from some TDs, and Murphy told The Journal: “It is highly inappropriate for this ‘sport’ to be marketed at families including children, while being supported by the public to the tune of €19 million this year.”

Murphy added that politicians are “extremely out of step with the public” when it comes to issues within the greyhound industry. 

“There have been a number of opinion polls about the public money that goes to greyhound racing and the public is overwhelmingly opposed to that,” said Murphy.

In 2019, a RED C opinion poll commissioned by the Irish Council Against Blood Sports  and Greyhound Action Ireland found that 66% of respondents believed that the government should defund greyhound racing.

“Yet, the vast majority of politicians vote it through year after year,” said Murphy.

“Why is that? I think it’s because some of them are connected to the industry, or own dogs or are in syndicates that own dogs. Others I think are afraid of being portrayed as anti-blood sports or somehow being ‘anti-rural’.”

Meanwhile, O’Dowd claimed “politicians are afraid of their life to stand up to” the greyhound industry in Ireland and added: “Politicians will all cite the ‘rural vote’ and how they’re afraid of losing it, that’s what you’ll hear all the time.”

O’Dowd pointed to Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis as a supposed recent example of this.

Its November Ard Fheis voted in favour of “strong regulation” of hare coursing, after a series of motions calling for an outright ban of the practice were raised at the party’s annual conference.

action-from-the-j-p-mcmanus-irish-cup-hare-coursing-championships-at-limerick-racecourse-co-limerick-ireland-one-of-many-events-organised-by-the-irish-coursing-club-based-in-clonmel-co-tipperary
File image of hare coursing in Ireland Alamy Stock Photo


Alamy Stock Photo

Hare coursing involves the pursuit of hares with greyhounds for training purposes.

Hare coursing has been banned in the North since 2003 and several speakers at Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis called for an all-Ireland ban.

However, Press Association reported that other delegates said an outright ban would cause negative outcomes for candidates in upcoming local elections.

Sinn Féin has been approached for comment by The Journal.

The Noteworthy team wants to investigate the key animal welfare concerns in the hare coursing industry. Support this project here.

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