Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Our Grief Must be Turned Into Action for Greyhounds

Across the world, greyhound advocates are frustrated and hurt by the announcement that New South Wales, Australia will severely reduce dog racing rather than prohibit it altogether. There is a growing sense that the dogs have not only been failed by the New South Wales government, but the political process itself cannot be trusted. We must reject that assessment.

We are all living through history, playing a part in a global debate that will inevitably end with a complete prohibition on commercial dog racing. Our victory is certain, because the greyhound industry contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction. To operate as a profitable commercial enterprise, it must utilize practices that go against our mainstream values about the humane treatment of animals. The entire industry lacks a social license, and will inevitably be outlawed.

Unfortunately, the change we seek will not happen on our desired timeline. It will be a slow, gradual process that unfolds over decades or even generations. That may sound unbearable, but in the grand course of history a generation is barely a blink of the eye.  In fact, I'm amazed by the progress we have already made.

Just in the fifteen years since GREY2K USA Worldwide formed, we have seen seeds of compassion grow into a global movement to end the cruelty of greyhound racing. The American industry has been reduced to a mere 18 operational tracks in only five states, with roughly $500 million bet on races nationwide. At its peak, nearly $3.5 billion was bet on races held at nearly sixty tracks in nineteen states. The industry is also economically collapsing in the United Kingdom, where the last dog track in London, iconic Wimbledon Stadium, is set to close. The worst dog track in the world, the Macau Canidrome, is teetering after having received a government ultimatum to close or move.

In Australia, the last twenty months represent a tectonic shift in the history of greyhound racing. The plan that has been floated by the New South Wales government includes the closure of dozens of commercial dog tracks, a vast reduction of greyhound breeding, bonds for each dog born into the industry, track restructures aimed at reducing injuries, and other major reforms. These changes reflect a political victory, not a defeat. They are also a huge step towards the day when greyhound racing is prohibited everywhere.

Finally, every time we speak up for greyhounds we become political actors. We should be grateful for the democratic mechanisms that allow us to oppose and even abolish injustice. Rather than blame the political process for the New South Wales reversal, we should instead accept the fact that the greyhound industry deftly used politics to temporarily salvage a small remnant of itself. Dog race promoters flexed their political muscles, and threatened to pull the government apart if they didn't get their way. Using media surrogates, they engaged in a campaign of misinformation and bullying, and didn't stop until they won.

Because the animal advocacy community is committed to justice, we must never allow ourselves to use these underhanded tactics. We can, however, become more effective at using the democratic mechanisms ourselves. The solution is not to reject the political process, but to become better at it. This is one of the goals of this weekend's Greyhounds Around the Globe conference.

We are holding a winning hand, and must stand together in solidarity as we fight for the freedom of these gentle dogs. Today is about our frustration and grief over a bad government decision that will harm greyhounds. But tomorrow must be about our resolve, and a commitment to be even stronger advocates for greyhounds.


  1. If the announced changes had come instead of the complete ban on racing, we would have considered it a great advance and we would have been celebrating. The new restrictions will have a significant impact on the industry and will move it toward its inevitable collapse.

  2. I agree with all you say, Carey. Remembering Tucson Greyhound Park, we had repeated disappointments in the effort to end racing there, and it seemed as if Tucson was a Teflon track ... reports of horrific conditions and incidents just didn't stick. And, it teetered along until it became completely evident that it could not sustain itself. And now, it's history. You are correct ... "seeds of its own destruction", "practices that go against our mainstream values". It certainly will fail, just not soon enough for all of us and most importantly, not soon enough for the dogs.

  3. Great words as usual Carey. Thank you!