Speech in Milan by Michael James, Director of Promotions and Investigations for CAGED NW, at our international conference “Freedom for Greyhounds”
Here is the speech that Michael James, Director of Promotions and Investigations and public speaker for the British group CAGED Nationwide, did at the Conference ‘Freedom for Greyhounds – Close the Canidrome and all Race Tracks Worldwide’, organised by Pet Levrieri in Italy on the weekend of the 23rd-24th-25th September.
A speech that shows the passion, pluck, determination and courage with which Rita and Michael James and the whole Caged Nationwide team have been fighting against the racing industry in the UK since 2011, exposing its abuses and rallying increasing numbers of people to get involved in the antiracing movement.
“The aims and achievements of Caged Northwest in the context of the British antiracing grassroots and activist movement, and the situation of racing greyhounds and lurchers in the UK”.
I am honoured to be here today, to represent team Caged North West and to speak on behalf of the dogs bred for the racing industry.
Greyhounds are suffering and dying everyday due to the supply and demand of an industry that exploits them on so many levels. Dogs that are old, slow, or injured, are rendered useless, once they are no longer able to earn a profit. They are at high risk of death from the very moment they are born. The word retired is not applicable in an industry where they are treated as disposable, and so few survive due to injuries, the overbreeding, lack of homes and limited resources of the rescue world.
The dogs they call champions, are not exempt from the suffering.
One dog in particular ‘Copeland Rocket’ was until recently kept in a cage for several years by a greyhound trainer in England. When Louise Eccles abandoned her kennels, the dog that she hoarded for 6 years was taken to rescue, but it was too late, he gasped for breath and died within hours of being let out of that cage.The kennel hands and the vet who served these kennels all accepted their wages, but allowed Copeland Rocket to rot away in a cage, making them as responsible for Rockets death as Louise herself. We were told Louise was very attached to Rocket, quite confusing when explained as though it was a humane and caring relationship, rather than one of abuse. Copeland Rocket, had serious health problems and was forced to exist rather than live. This was a classic case of ‘A trophy dog’ A dog that serves a greyhound trainers ego, to exist as a memory rather than a life.
We know this is just one case out of millions, but our point here is how many people will stay silent for a small wage on the back of greyhound abuse, regardless of any professional code of conduct, or morals. The corruption lies deep, involving all those who earn a wage. From the self regulated governing body (GBGB) at the core of the industry, to those on the surface, the kennel hands and the vets who pertain to choose silence.
To ignore abuse is to participate in abuse.
From the racing industry transporters, to the airlines who fly them to their deaths overseas, they are all complicit in the exploitation of these innocent dogs.
Regulation, no matter how strict will never prevent the cruelty, because the industry depends on the overbreeding of dogs, they cull the puppies that dont make the grade and supply on demand to the UK, where 80% of dogs are imported from Ireland. We have a major problem, due to overbreeding of greyhounds and it cannot be remedied while greyhound racing exists. There are more surplus greyhounds destroyed today, than all the stray dogs put together in the UK. The fact is, and always will be, that it is impossible to re-home all the greyhounds.
In the UK we have BAGS races, which means (Bookmakers Afternoon Greyhound Service). The bookmakers depend on BAGS trainers. BAGS trainers generally have large amounts of dogs, often starting with around 50. The trainer is paid a fee for every dog they enter into a race, even if they do not get placed ‘it provides a regular income for the trainer’ and provides a steady flow of races for the bookmakers to broadcast. The bookmakers are predominantly responsible for the overbreeding and the hoarding of dogs via Bags trainers, which leads to the most serious of welfare issues in kennelling. While a BAGS trainer may have around 80 dogs, only around 50% will be actively racing. The industry has its own re-homing programme which entails a long waiting list, usually around 6mths, meaning the greyhound trainers are often persuaded to accept money from the industry for boarding their own surplus dogs, and this leads to the major problem of hoarding. Sadly, we are referring to the greyhound trainers who prefer not to kill their dogs, instead they themselves are faced with a major problem due to overbreeding. Dogs will often exist in squalid conditions, with few or no staff to attend to them and with only the very basics of water and shelter. Some trainers will have full time jobs leaving dogs for up to 20hrs per day without any care.
The Bookmakers are not going to cut ties with the racing industry, while they have such large vested interests. Those supportive of the greyhound racing industry often claim, it can be better regulated. They have had 90 years to regulate it and still are unable to, how many more years do we wait, and how many more lives must be lost through false promises.
The fact is, the cruelty will continue until greyhound racing ends. The UK industry is in decline, and significantly so, over the past decade. We must end the greyhound racing industry, but not without taking important measures to ensure a safety net is applied to protect all the dogs. We must initially block the possibility of greyhound exports and ensure there is a plan for rehoming all the dogs. There are over 15,000 greyhounds in circulation in the UK at present and it would be impossible to rehome this amount of dogs if greyhound racing was abolished overnight in 2016. Therefore a ban implemented by a 4 year phase out of greyhound racing, with no further breeding of greyhounds, would allow all dogs to be rehomed safely, additionally people employed by the racing industry would have plenty of time to re-train for new employment. With all this in mind, it is highly unlikely we will ever gain a ban in the UK, due to the amount of money the government earn in taxes, but maybe there will be hope if the greyhound racing industry further declines in the future.
Caged North West maintain a realistic view in terms of what can be done to combat the cruelty.
I will now tell you a little about team Caged North West.
Caged was formed in 2012 and founded by my partner, Rita. I will take you back to the previous year to explain how we became so involved. In 2011 we attended a protest at Belle Vue stadium in Manchester ‘the first track to open in the UK, back in 1926’ When we arrived, there were only 4 protestors. The placards they held were not visible and their voices unheard through the crowds of people entering the track. The following week we went back armed with a megaphone, and we turned the volume up to its highest level ‘It was time for the protesters to be heard’ In the following weeks, we began standing in the town centres armed with just our megaphone and very little knowledge about the politics of greyhound racing. Some people would pass, sneering at us, but others began throwing their spare pennies into our megaphone case. We were determined to make people aware of the cruelty. Each week we spent our spare time, on the streets chatting to people and chanting ‘Greyhounds You Bet They Die’ through the megaphone. We saved all our pennies up, and eventually made enough funds to renew banners at Belle Vue stadium protest. The protesters saw how good the banners looked and began contributing towards additional ones. After several stalls, we collected enough money to print our first batch of leaflets.
I decided that the protest needed an identity, so I called it SDBV ‘The Shut Down Belle Vue Group’ I began the SDBV Facebook page and it exceeded my expectations, with thousands of people joining over the oncoming months. We had floods of new protesters, and at times we had around 50 to 60 people attend. One evening after a track protest, we were driving through the busy city centre. We drove passed some amazing backlit billboards, most were advertising leading businesses. Rita said ‘Wouldn’t it be a dream come true, if we could reach people with awareness using billboards. If it works for leading businesses, then it could work for the dogs’
Just weeks later, we purchased a billboard trailer and had banners made to fit. We named it the ‘Raced to Death Tour’ not ideal but a cheap alternative to a billboard. The attention it attracted was outstanding, we towed it to several busy locations for around 12 months. On one occasion, we crossed paths with the industrys own ‘BIG DOG Limouzine’. The racing industry had invested a fortune on a stretch Limouzine with a purpose built giant sized imitation greyhound on the rooftop. We followed it in awe, and used the megaphone to tell the public what this vehicle was representing, ‘Cruelty, exploitation and death of greyhounds’. The Limouzine driver blushed and made a poor attempt to do a U turn in the road, mid panic he forgot the length of the monster sized vehicle he was driving, losing all control of his chauffer skills, and getting the vehicle stuck. We had our fun, filming him while he swayed back and forth, stuck in a moment of pure embarrassement.
We went from strength to strength within the following 12 months, and by April 2012 Rita had founded the campaign group ‘Caged North West’ we decided to expand to new levels, and devote our lives to the greyhounds that were losing theirs.
Our work since 2012, is now second nature to us.
We continuously raise mass awareness in high traffic areas of major cities where greyhound stadiums are located, expressing the cruelty of greyhounds attached to greyhound racing, and using strong images and text.
We use superside posters on buses, sky banners, and spectacular backlit billboards, each project targeting hundreds of thousands of people.
We strive to build on publications in newspapers and magazines, to advise people of the cruelty attached to greyhound racing. Dogs Today magazine has been massively supportive.
We have two amazing members of our team, Karen and Rachel who create public events. They often include greyhounds to participate in fun events that attract the public, and show them that greyhounds really do make the best companions!
We attend places of education to meet with young people, and to help them understand the implications of gambling and attending greyhound tracks.
We supply UK and Irish campaigners with free graphic materials, that they can use for protests at tracks.
We distribute tens of thousands of leaflets every year, and we promote greyhound rescue wherever possible.
We expose the cruelty within the greyhound racing industry, at any cost.
We have team members who recently intercepted 24 dogs transiting through England to be exported to Macau, for use at the Canidrome, a track with a 100% kill rate. We took video footage and applied pressure, and it hit the media. The dogs were later turned away by staff at Heathrow airport and had to head back to Ireland. This cost the greyhound trainer a lot of expense and gave us the realisation, that we have team members who are highly dedicated and willing to put their own necks on the line, when they are confronted by aggressors.
We intend to continue our work as a team, until the racing industry has its final day.
Michael James CAGED Nationwide©petlevrieri
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