INSPIRING, CLEAR AND FORWARD-THINKING SPEECH IN MILAN FROM MARION FITZGIBBON DI LIMERICK ANIMAL WELFARE
Here is the speech that Marion Fitzgibbon, Limerick Animal Welfare founder and director, did at the Conference ‘Freedom for Greyhounds – CloseTheCanidrome and all Race Tracks Worldwide’, organised by Pet Levrieri in Italy on the weekend of the 23rd-24th-25th September.
Marion is also director of The American European Greyhound Alliance and Director on Pro Animale Ireland Greyhound Sanctuary, member on the National Executive Committee of the Irish Animal Welfare Party (IAWP) and member of The Greyhound Rescue Association of Ireland (GRAI). Marion is a major player in the struggle for the protection of greyhounds, lurchers and other animals in Ireland and elsewhere.
“Freedom for greyhounds
I would like to thank pet levrieri for inviting me here to-day to talk about the irish anti racing movement and the situation of greyhounds and lurchers in ireland.
The anti racing movement in ireland is almost non existent. There are several small groups engaged in greyhound rescue but the greyhound board has given them small grants to enable them to carry out the rescue work. If any of these groups speak in a degrogatory manner about the board , their funding will be stopped.
Limerick animal welfare has worked since 1994 to raise awareness in ireland about the plight of the irish greyhounds and lurchers. We have worked with pro animale germany, greyhound friends boston and greyhound compassion in the uk. All these organizations continue to support us in our rescue work. At present we are very happy to work with erin hounds, galway spca and pet levrieri to promote the welfare of our greyhounds and lurchers. Many of the greyhounds and lurchers that will find wonderful homes with you to-day would never had a chance to live out their lives in ireland. We are most grateful to stefania and massimo for the love and time they devote to finding forever homes for our irish hounds.
The title of our programme to-day is “freedom for greyhounds”. In the past freedom for animals was not recognized in irish law. However, the five freedoms for animals has been enshrined in the new 1913 animal health and welfare act. These freedoms are also recognized by the federation of veterinarians in europe and by the world organization for animal health.
The freedoms are: Freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from disease and injury, freedom to express normal behaviour, freedom from distress and fear. All animals in ireland now have the right to these five freedoms. For the first time oners have the responsibility to care for the wellbeing of their animals. .Unfortunately, when we look at the situation for our greyhounds and lurchers in ireland we see that they do not enjoy any of these freedoms. Overbreeding The biggest problem for greyhounds in ireland to-day is overbreeding, 2709 Litters of greyhound pups were registered in 2015. If we estimate 7 pups per litter we get a figure of 18,963 new pups . If we look at the figures over the past three years we see a small decline. (Table showing figures )New breeders incentive scheme In order to counteract the small reduction in breeding the irish dept of agriculture recently granted 700,000 euro additional funding to the industry to encourage breeders and owners to breed even more greyhounds. This is extraordinary as all over the usa and the uk breeders and owners are being encouragd to decrease the numbers of greyhounds being bred.
Bags – bookies afternoon greyhound racing service The government has also recently granted a licence to the bookmakers to start bags racing in ireland. This has already started in three counties. Bags racing drives high demand for low grade greyhounds. The bookmakers rent the tracks from the racing board and run on line racing all day. The owners and trainers get an appearance fee for each dog and dogs are raced again and again. Many injured and slow greyhounds are raced to death. We must campaign to stop bags racing in ireland as it is due to be introduced in limerick and other counties over the next few months.
Irish greyhound sales Greyhound sales are held in ireland every ten days. Greyhound life is cheap. Greyhounds that are not sold at auction are sold off cheaply after the sales. At sales in thurles recently 12 greyhounds were sold to a dealer for 150 euro. As the u k tracks continue to close the market for irish greyhounds is declining. We see an increase in the spanish agents at the sales. The agents buying for pakistan are also on the increase. The irish greyhounds that were recently exported to macau were collected by robert green and never appeared at official sales. These greyhounds had no value as they were low grade dogs. These unfortunate greyhounds are now back racing in ireland and the uk and some have been sold on for bags racing.
Self regulation The irish greyhound industry was allowed to write its own greyhound welfare act and regulates itself. The greyhound industry own and regulate all the tracks. The circuits and bends on the tracks vary and the collisions are frightening and are costing greyhounds their lives. There are no injury statistics available. Injuries and deaths at tracks should be logged and statistics should be publicly available. A vet should be present at all trials as well as at track racing. In the uk there is a society of greyhound veterinarians. We need trained greyhdund veterinarians in ireland to give advice on track safety and substance abuse.
Substance abuse The recent morris report into doping is of huge concern also. The report is scathing in its criticism of the irish greyhound board. Doping is identified in the report as a welfare issue. Insufficient drug testing is carried out. Fines imposed for substance abuse are kept to a minimum. The irish racing board has introduced thresholds for painkillers for racing greyhounds thereby condoning the fact that injured greyhounds are allowed to race. The use of anabolic steroids is widespread. Greyhounds bought at sales are often drugged. Last november an irish sales agent was fined 2000 sterling in the uk and banned for 3 months because a greyhound he had bought at thurles sales tested positive for a prohibited substance.
Grants The irish greyhound industry is deeply in debt. It would not survive without the huge government grants it receives each year. In 2015 they were allocated 14.8 Million. Only 220,000 was given to the retired greyhound trust. Less than 1000 irish greyhounds are homed each year. We estimate that 11,500 greyhounds were unaccounted for in 2015. A small number will have been sold to spain, portugal, pakistan, china and even argentina. However, there are no records available. The irish greyhound board incur staff costs of 8.3 Million each year. However, they refuse to give figures for the number of people they have on staff.
Change of classification The final insult for the irish greyhounds is that they are not classified as companion animals. In ireland they are classified as an agricultural product. We must raise our voices and insist that retired greyhounds are entitled to be called companion animals .
Lurchers The situation for lurchers in ireland is very serious. Lurchers usually come into the sanctuary in terrible condition. We have many examples of lurchers with broken bones, terrible lacerations, and awful skin conditions. Lurchers are always infested with parsaites and very often emaciated and terrified. As you are all aware irish lurchers are intelligent, strong and loyal dogs. They are one of the oldest irish breeds and they were always known in ancient ireland as the “faithful hound.” Lurchers make great pets and live long and healthy lives. We have many lurchers coming to-day and wonderful homes waiting for them here in italy.
When we look at the five freedoms we see that our lurchers and greyhounds suffer from hunger and thirst, they suffer terrible discomfort, they suffer from diesease and injury, they are not allowed to enjoy normal behviour and they suffer from distress and fear. We must raise our voices and insist that they are granted the right to enjoy these five freedoms”.
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