Saturday, 15 June 2019

25 years of the same debate

'We must restore the[greyhound]industry to its former glory'- 
Jackie Cahill TD(and director of Thurles greyhound track)
 Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 6 Feb 2019.
The 'former glory' of the greyhound industry must have
 been more than 25 years ago
as debates on greyhound welfare in 2019 mirror
 the debates on greyhound welfare in 1994.

February 1994 MP's in the UK Commons held a debate on 'the cruelty to greyhounds' - following the BBC's On The Line programme(about cruelty to greyhounds). The then MP, Colin Pickthall spoke, in the opening of the debate, 'The United Kingdom accounts for 80 per cent. of Irish exports, so conditions and attitudes in Ireland are of direct concern to the authorities and the Government in this country.' 

The debate highlighted the issues that greyhounds are forced to face - from exports to traceability, to blooding/live baiting to doping to running with injuries, etc. 

25 years later(and a few legislations later), in  Ireland, February 2019, we come to the Dáil Éireann debate on the Greyhound Racing Bill 2018(Second Stage) - the Greyhound Racing Bill 2018 to become the Greyhound Racing Act 2019.

The 2019 debate mirrors the issues, that greyhounds are forced to face, raised in the UK 25 years earlier, in 1994.

In 1994, the issue of live baiting/blooding was raised - Owen McKenna being the star of this subject who was convicted of blooding his greyhounds with live rabbits. Owen later was allowed to continue training greyhounds in Ireland, gaining praise in 2018 despite losing his appeal in 2017 against a €1000 fine for the doping of three of his greyhounds in 2015(a fine which he later took to the High Court and lost). Blooding greyhounds was also raised in the 2019 debate where Maureen O'Sullivan TD spoke of the knowledge that 'the blooding of greyhounds, which goes on and is ignored'.

Perhaps O'Sullivan was referring to advert of  Kieran Purcell's Greyhound Kennels who advertises to 'look after your' greyhounds as well as 'hunt' them. Or maybe O'Sullivan was referring to the advert of Tarsna Kennels - of Yvonne Harrington, who boasts of her dog Bobby who flushes out plenty of 'rabbits for the[greyhound]pups to chase'.

As in 1994, where the subject of exports - especially to Spain - were debated, the subject continued to be highlighted in the 2019 debate - especially to China and Pakistan, countries with no, or little welfare laws.
Outside the debate, within the greyhound racing community, greyhound breeder/greyhound stadium architect, Seamus McCloskey gave his praise and support to a new initiative which will lead to an expansion of greyhound racing in China. Seamus McCloskey already has a history of exported greyhounds - one of his ended up as a stray in Spain, and another ended up in Pakistan.

It's interesting to read in the 1994 debate how the then UK's greyhound racing regulatory body - the National Greyhound Racing Club(NGRC)had rules against selling greyhounds to Spain(the NGRC eventually replaced by/becoming the Greyhound Board of Great Britain). In the 2019 debate such prohibitions of selling greyhounds to such countries would not be enshrined into the Greyhound Racing Act 2019.

The 1994 debate further highlights:

  • the issue of greyhounds being used for racing while injured - an issue continuing to be raised into 2019 with repeated positive urine samples from greyhounds showing the use of pain relief medications
  • the issue of greyhounds having been dumped in the River Foyle - an issue continuing into, at least, 2015
  • the issue of greyhounds being used for vivisection - an issue the University College Dublin reported they had stopped after buying 33 greyhounds in 2013 for experiments.
  • the issue of greyhound homing was raised - an issue continuing into 2019 and seemingly an issue used more for PR for the industry rather than sincerity for the greyhound - especially when the IGB Chairman Frank Nyhan gave false figures on the IGB/IRGT homing at a Committee debate(for the Greyhound Racing Act 2019), and especially when IRGT volunteers breed more greyhounds.
  • the issue of traceability - an issue raised in the 2019 debate and continuing. An issue highlighted in a confidential 2017 report for the IGB, which was kept from the public, detailing the culling of thousands of greyhounds - even kept from the Dept. Agriculture, Food and the Marine until May 2019, despite the many debates between the IGB and DAFM for the new Greyhound Racing Act 2019.

In the 25 years of those mirrored 1994/2019 parliamentary debates there have been various legislations passed, most notably the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 - which Bord na gCon Brian Purcell described as 'probably the strongest piece of legislation for any animal in the world'. Such strong legislation that saw John Corkery only fined €800 after he had his greyhounds shot and dumped at a quarry in Co. Limerick back in 2012. The fine being for forgery and failures of transfer of ownership notification. Despite never giving the identity of the person(s) he gave his greyhounds to to be shot, the Bord na gCon praised it a successful prosecution and in 2016 licensed John Corkery to race greyhounds in Ireland again where he has continued to do so up to May of 2019(at the time of writing).

Will the Greyhound Racing Act 2019 resolve all the continued issues concerning the well-being of greyhounds and actually give greyhounds well-being(?).

If the lack of willingness to invoke/use/put into practice/enforce/etc the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011, which we have seen over, and over, and over, again is anything to go by, then we should only expect to hear more parliamentary debates of greyhound cruelty to continue in the future.

The public cannot be fooled into thinking that the Bord na gCon(Irish Greyhound Board)changing it's name to Rásaíocht Con Éireann(Greyhound Racing Ireland)will be yet another new page
 when integrity and transparency have only ever been 
words spoken by the industry, and not words put into practice.