On Abolishing Greyhound Racing in MA
When it comes to low-hanging fruit and abolition, getting Greyhound racing banned in Massachusetts, where there are only two tracks, would seem to be a good choice (as opposed to Florida, where there are over a dozen tracks). But pro-racing and pro-gambling interests have far more money to spend on their campaign to continue to create and profit from dogs and discard them when/if they’re not profitable than pro-Greyhound people have to spend trying to shut them down and save the hounds, making the outcome by no means clear.
A group of volunteers including, of course, the folks at Grey2K USA, has collected the over 100,000 signatures needed to put a referendum on the ballot that will phase out racing in Massachusetts by 2010 (phasing out is clearly not optimal for the dogs, but it is better for the people, and the reality is that if people don’t get concessions, dogs are unlikely to get anything).
Naturally, the debate about racing is most often about suffering and cruelty, and as in all other cases where that is the focus, it is largely a he said/she said situation, with pro-Greyhound people providing statistics that pro-racing (anti-Greyhound?) people refute, either before or after they say that the dogs love to run. As if that’s the point. Go to www.protectdogs.org if you want to see what it’s like for racing hounds in Massachusetts, although pro-racing interests will always find a way to make it sound like the dogs are as comfortable and as happy as they are at my house.
As Marissa Dirks of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund at Harvard Law School recently wrote in "Work to End Greyhound Racing in Massachusetts:"
If you are a Massachusetts resident and have not added your voice to the chorus, please call 617-666-3526. A few years ago, Massachusetts residents succeeded in getting this issue on the ballot, but it was very narrowly defeated. The racing industry spent unlimited funds airing insincere ads which depicted priests and small kids enjoying a "day at the dog park." One employee even claimed that watching the races helps children with their math and reading skills! Taunton dog park owner George Carney and Revere dog park owner Charles Sarkin have been making campaign contributions for over 40 years to the state legislature to protect their business interests in the dog tracks. Please join SALDF and help defeat this special interest.
The Greyhound Racing Association of America contends:
- Greyhounds love to race and chase by instinct. Absolutely true. Also absolutely irrelevant.
- The prevention of injuries is a top priority of the industry, and it funds research into veterinary issues. I don’t think any owner or trainer wants a dog to get injured, as that would nix the probability of profit. So let’s say that this one is true, although the phrase "a top priority" seems a bit of a stretch.
- Greyhounds are kept in kennels and are allowed out for light exercise several times a day. Like to pee and poop. Face it. they spend their lives in a cage.
- Ninety percent of retired greyhounds are adopted. Let’s assume that’s true. Some of the other 10% are killed, and the "best" females must spend the rest of their lives being repeatedly raped and pumping out pups-with-promise. And when they’re spent? Do they live a life of luxury? No. They too are discarded. If owners loved the dogs the way they often claim to, why would they instantly discard them when they’re no longer profitable, and not even pay for their spaying or neutering? If they really cared about the dogs, they’d take them back to their farm and give them a wonderful life there, and permit them to run whenever they wanted to and never cage them again. The percentage of dogs adopted, whatever it is, is due mostly to the hard work of volunteers who rescue and care for the dogs–and pay for their medical care.
Would anyone advocate for treating pet dogs the way racers are treated? Of course not. The fact that they love to run is not some kind of permission to treat that running–and the dog attached to it–as a commodity and "produce" dogs purely for profit.
I hope the legislation passes. However, I don’t happen to have too much faith in the legislative process when it comes to animals. One thing I do have faith in is the power of the dollar. Educate those around you, according to whatever their hot button is, about Greyhound racing so they don’t go to the track to do anything. There are people who have deluded themselves into thinking that having a drink at the track or playing poker there doesn’t support dog racing. Their faulty (non-existent?) logic needs to be revealed, and if they claim to care about dogs, they should cease their track-going.
The good news for dogs is that people have indeed been voting with their dollars and not going to the track, hence attempts to prop up the industry with slot machines and other forms of gambling. The industry is dying, but it keeps getting revived enough to continue the misery for the dogs.
As for the argument that it provides people with jobs, if there were a sweatshop filled with children in your town, would you campaign to keep it because it gives people jobs and helps the economy? No, because it’s wrong to use children to make a profit. Well, children and dogs might not have that much in common, but they do share one trait–the one that matters. They are sentient. And breeding them for the sole reason of profiting from their innate abilities and drives, is unethical.