The misconceptions surrounding so called amateur racing
In the world of dog lovers and greyhound ‘enthusiasts’, more or less sophisticated attempts to differentiate so called amateur racing from commercial greyhound racing reappear periodically.
There is no doubt that there are substantial differences between the two: commercial greyhound racing is an actual industry characterised by a legal betting system, trainer kennels and racetracks, an autonomous system of management and self regulation and intensive breeding programmes, put simply. By comparison amateur races appear to be just recreational, no profit events where the dogs are not exploited – basically just a fun day out for greyhounds.
But it’s not quite like that: amateur racing enthusiasts and those from commercial dog racing circles actually have a lot in common. Firstly, their view of greyhounds as ‘working dogs’ who happen to like running. Secondly, the fact that they both justify their own amusement and interests as if they were also the amusement and interests of greyhounds.
This mystification is borne of a subtle play of words which conflates the idea of running with that of racing. It’s obvious that greyhounds love to run – though they are not the only breed of dog to love doing so – but running and racing are not the same thing. To compete, whether for entertainment or money, is a human motivation and it is humans who build the places in which dogs compete: racetracks, coursing fields, dog fighting arenas. The aims of these places have nothing to do with the happiness of the dogs: money, entertainment and social standing are human aims, not canine ones.
There are countless things one can do with greyhounds and for greyhounds, to make them happy and to enjoy seeing them happy, such as enjoying walking together in nature, sharing activities and moments of daily life together, allowing them to run free outside of any competitive context, to give just a few examples – and without perpetuating the myth of them being ‘working dogs’. Because that is precisely the point: greyhounds can simply be dogs, without the need to add any kind of qualification. Indeed if the idea that a dog is happy if he does what man has selected him to do made any sense, then dog fights should be organised to make fighting breeds happy. An obviously ridiculous argument, which in turn automatically shows how ridiculous the idea that it is right to make greyhounds race is too, whether betting is involved or not.
By Massimo Greco
Translated by Isobel Deeley