A friend was telling us about her recent trip to London, where she had gone to visit her daughter who lives there, and about her meeting with some young Irish girls. She wanted to bring up the subject of greyhounds and the racing industry without offending them, so she decided to do it in a lighthearted, humorous way by saying: “Hey, girls, I’ve got a couple of Irishmen at home too, you know! You Irish people are a pretty tough lot, aren’t you!”
The girls were astonished. “What Irishmen? What do you mean?”
And so she showed them some photos of her greyhounds…
“But they’re greyhounds!?!”
“But how come? Are they Irish greyhounds?”
Their amazement was almost hard to believe. And what they told her only confirmed what we have heard before from others. But it always hurts just the same, just like the first time.
Everybody knew about the racing industry, of course, the fact that it existed. But nobody ever talked about what happened behind the scenes. Nobody. Ever.
They said they had never heard anybody speak of the abuses of the racing industry. And they had never heard that greyhounds were adopted abroad.
What was particularly upsetting was hearing that greyhounds in Ireland are considered bad dogs, aggressive, and completely unsuited to home life.
Our friend decided to show them the pictures of some of the many greys adopted from Ireland. She opened up Facebook and watched the girls’ astonished faces.
Incredulous, they commented: “Look at how he’s smiling! Oh God, would you just look at him all stretched out on the couch! Look how beautiful this one is!” “But are they all Irish?”
Our friend told them they were wonderful, gentle creatures. They had no idea. One girl even said that she had a friend who did volunteer work for various dog rescues but she had never spoken to her about greyhounds. She promised she would tell her everything. And then, visibly moved, she said:
“Silence is typical of Irish people. And as far as greyhounds are concerned, it’s all about mentality, about the need to change the way people are educated. I promise I’ll tell my friends and acquaintances.”
But the other girl commented: “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t know a single Irish person who would be prepared to adopt a greyhound.”
This story, not at all unusual in itself, has one piece missing, and that piece is the IGB, the Irish Greyhound Board, the organisation that runs the racing industry in Ireland. For while it is true that for many Irish people, due to their mentality, greyhounds are just racing dogs if not garbage, many others simply do not know.
And they don’t know because it is not spoken about, and this is because the industry makes sure it is not known, for instance, that many puppies are killed or that a dog that gets a leg injury on the track is euthanised.
So both silence and a certain kind of mentality are skillfully fed by the IGB and the racing industry. The IGB organises events in schools to show children what fun the races are, and offers cheap family tickets for the tracks. How can people’s mentality change in this way?
The only way to change this mentality, in our view, is by sharing information, and by openly showing how foul the racing industry is. To turn that mentality into a minority, its cruel and inhumane effects must be shown mercilessly. Those who run this business must be made to feel ashamed of what they do.
In Ireland it is not enough to show that greyhounds make great pets, one must also show how and why they are considered agricultural goods and are treated as such even before being born.
Anything else is useless, if not harmful.
By Nataša Musizza and Massimo Greco
Translated by Isobel Deeley