Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A word from Mark Twain

Rebel the greyhound from Ireland

By Fred Barton, GREY2K USA Worldwide Secretary
“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” – Mark Twain

When Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland made the recent decision to stop promoting dog racing, you might think that greyhound breeders would engage in a wee bit of introspection. But oh no, not that! Instead they launched a vulgar campaign of harassment against a hotel that was set to host a greyhound welfare conference. More on this strange turn of events in a moment.

I suppose this is the kind of belligerent behavior that one can expect from delusional dog breeders who think that treating dogs like garbage is a selling point, or that the frequent news stories about cocaine-positive greyhounds is somehow a promotional draw? But the truth is that dog racing has been exposed as cruel and inhumane, and the public is responding.

Take Tourism Minister Shane Ross for instance. When he learned of the Irish Greyhound Board’s cover-up of its own report showing an industry wracked with debt, he put his foot down. Like millions of viewers across the globe, he had just seen RTÉ’s damning documentary­, Running For Their Lives. But unlike most others, he was in a position to do something about it.  

Minister Ross had been saddened to learn that the IGB overbreeds dogs on a massive scale and as a result, breeders and owners send 6,000 greyhounds to die, many in slaughterhouses, each year. Legislators even reward this cruelty with more than €16 million in annual handouts! Stunned and appalled, Ross immediately removed all dog racing-related information from the Tourism Board’s website and materials.

“It seems to me there was absolutely no anxiety on the board of directors to make public the information which is now found to be utterly unacceptable,” said Ross. He wanted nothing more to do with “the utterly revolting activities that were going on” and stated that these revelations had “cast a dark cloud over the entire industry.” Umm...yeah. Agreed, but if you’re just noticing the "dark cloud" over racing, you haven’t been paying attention. There’s been a dark cloud over racing since before Mr. Guinness decided he’d like to try his hand at brewing beer.

By contrast, Minister Ross’ Deputy, Martin Ferris, joined the deniers, blaming any cruelty that could be happening on “a few bad apples.”

With all due respect to the Honorable Mr. Ferris, that would depend on what your definition of “a few” is. See, when you’ve got more bad actors in an industry than people at a cricket match in Malahide that’s a problem. All I’m saying is that it takes a lot of people to kill 6,000 greyhounds a year ...

Ferris even went on to claim that “many people would feel that the small boys and the small girls of the industry are being victimized.” Wait, what? Victimized? Because they won’t have the opportunity to grow up and kill innocent greyhounds? Mister, you sure have a strange definition of “vocational education.” But, OK, OK. Let’s give the devil his due. Let’s give this imagined majority of peaceful greyhound breeders and racers another chance.

It turns out that a contingent of greyhound advocates from around the world is coming to Dublin for a conference next month. So here’s your chance to set the record straight, to speak truth to power, and to get out the whole story about just how great racing is for the greyhounds! What do you say?

Sadly, instead of taking the high road or attempting to dialogue with greyhound rescuers, racing interests showed their true colors once more. As reported in The Journal, a well-known Dublin Hotel was forced to turn away an international meeting of greyhound advocates after being “inundated with crank and abusive phone calls.” In a public statement, management said that its staff members were repeatedly threatened, placing the establishment, its guests and workers in “an extraordinary situation which cannot be justified.”

I wonder how many of those poor “victimized” boys and small girls were in on those calls? Job shadowing you know …

The Greyhounds Around the Globe conference has been relocated. Learn more and join us at grey2kusa.org/greyglobe.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Baghdad Bob Redux?

By Fred Barton, Secretary, GREY2K USA Worldwide

Throughout the campaign to pass Amendment 13, the humane ballot question that will soon phase out greyhound racing in Florida, I was always amazed at the lengths to which industry mouthpieces would go to avoid addressing the real issue. Was greyhound racing humane? That was the question. But greyhound breeders chose to embark on a crusade of distortion and distraction, talking about hunting, fishing -- anything but dog racing! They focused on attacking the messengers and even bullied voters who were honestly just looking for information. This curious "strategy" was self-defeating and only served to alienate them further with the electorate. As a result, almost seven of ten voters cast their ballots to end greyhound racing by December 2020. Greyhound breeders lost and they lost big time.

You would think that as pro-racers now look back upon their 2018 campaign, they might have gained some self-awareness, taken pause and would now be ready to move in a new direction. You would be wrong.

I recently ran across a  new video called "The Purpose of Life is a Life of Purpose" put out by the National Greyhound Association. It amounts to two minutes of dogs racing in slow motion, with philosophical quotes and New Age music playing in the background. It seems that in the minds of greyhound breeders, commercial racing is literally the purpose of life for greyhounds. But as the people of Florida said loudly and definitively, dog racing is not about life, it is about death. According to state records, a greyhound dies every three days at a Florida track. If you just flew in from Mars and saw this video, you would never know Amendment 13 had passed overwhelmingly in November, that five tracks have shut down early and the seven remaining will soon be closed!

I’ve noticed this denial in other interactions I’ve had with industry representatives as well. During the campaign, one of my tasks was to comment on articles and news reports about Amendment 13. I found myself constantly needing to call out the deceptions, unsupported allegations and outright lies put forth by the pro-racing side. The responses to my clarifications by racing supporters were either personal attacks, attacks on GREY2K, or insults about animal advocates in general. Now, seven months later, as news about Florida greyhounds being released for adoption is coming out and tracks begin moving away from antiquated dog racing, its defenders are still singing the same old song. In their comments online and in print, greyhound breeders continue to make ad hominem attacks. They are even threatening to sue the state in some quixotic waste of time and money because they say "it just isn't fair" to stop dog racing?

As if in a time warp, nothing seems to have changed on the pro-racing side. There is no change in approach, no dawning realization that times have changed. No growth, no nothing.

It seems to me that the industry is totally clueless and completely out of step and this latest video by the NGA only confirms my point. This cruel industry goes on talking about how wonderful racing is and how happy the dogs are -- all the while sugarcoating its commodification of gentle greyhounds.

This reminds me of Baghdad Bob, the Iraqi "Information Minister" who would stand at his official podium and make absurd pronouncements during Desert Storm, insisting for example that American soldiers were committing suicide "by the hundreds" outside the city. He would even deny that there were American tanks in Baghdad, when in fact they could actually be heard in the background of his very broadcasts! Denial, anyone?

Things did not end well for Baghdad Bob (whose real name was Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf). After the war, he was captured by coalition forces, interrogated and released. After that, he simply faded away. The same will certainly happen to greyhound racing.