Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Power of the People

Volunteers campaign for the Greyhound Protection Act in 2008
As we mark election day in the United States, it's worth reflecting on the power that we all hold as stakeholders in a representative democracy. I was reminded of people power again last week, when London Mayor Boris Johnson issued a ruling that forever ends greyhound racing at iconic Walthamstow Stadium.

After he announced his decision, Mayor Johnson told BBC radio that he tried to accommodate dog racing supporters but in the end concluded that greyhound racing was no longer viable at the site. He also acknowledged the compassionate comments he had received from greyhound advocates all over the world:
"We received thousands of representations from people in the opposite sense who feel that greyhound racing is cruel, now I don't necessarily agree with them, all I'm saying to you is that it was a deeply controversial decision either way."
This is the way a representative democracy is supposed to work. Even though the mayor is not personally opposed to greyhound racing, he listened to the voices of citizens. In fact, nearly 84% of all public comments the mayor received on the Walthamstow housing proposal were requests that greyhound racing not be introduced. According to his official ruling:
"1,990 objections were received in the third category of representations related to animal cruelty if the greyhound stadium were to reopen. Issues raised included the condition of kennels for the raising of greyhounds and the length they are locked in, ill treatment of the dogs whilst being kept for racing, culling of retired dogs and those younger dogs that are not suitable for racing, injuries to dogs while racing, the use of surplus dogs in medical research, the use of retired greyhounds to supply blood to veterinary practices, the sale of dogs organs to the Royal Vetinary College and promotion of gambling."
From across the globe, thousands of greyhound advocates spoke with one clear voice and Mayor Boris Johnson heard us. This is not the first time that our people power has won the day against the dog racing industry's money and muscle. At our core, GREY2K USA is a grassroots organization. All of our key victories, including the 2008 passage of the Greyhound Protection Act ballot question in Massachusetts, have always depended on grassroots support.

Our commitment to grassroots engagement is effective because we live in a society that is based on self government and is designed to change with the times. This change was cited in 1816 by Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence:
"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must also advance to keep pace with the times."
Of course, being part of a representative democracy also carries responsibilities, and in a sense we get the government we deserve. If you live in the United States, please vote today. Meanwhile, at GREY2K USA we will continue harnessing the power of the people.

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