The racing industry: a greyhound exploitation system aimed at producing profits.

Often people ask us what the greyhound racing industry actually is, what characterises it and why it’s intrinsically cruel.  Well, the racing industry is a system of greyhound exploitation aimed at producing profits.

Commercial greyhound racing currently exists in eight countries in the world: the USA, Ireland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Vietnam and Macau.

As shown by GREY2K USA Worldwide (, commercial greyhound racing is characterised by the presence of the following aspects:

A regulating authority

State authorised betting

An industrial breeding system

A greyhound ID system based on tattoos

An organised system of professional kennels

A network of tracks

These elements are not unconnected but should be seen as part of a system, in which each one plays its part and contributes to the functioning of the industry as a whole.

Let’s look at the function of each one of these elements:

A regulating authority

The main function of the regulating authority is to manage the industry in a self regulated way, i.e. independently or partly independently from the state. This allows it, for instance, to have a system of controls and penalties for those who violate its rules which, within certain limits that vary from country to country, are managed by authorities within the industry itself.

This system, in which those who do the controlling and those who are controlled are one and the same, allows the industry to have, for example, regulations for the dogs’ welfare and for the punishment of doping or the violation of rules – minimal as they are – which are milder and more tolerant than would be possible if the controls were carried out externally.

It also allows the industry to maintain confidentiality , if not actual secrecy, on the real numbers of dogs bred, sold abroad, injured on the tracks or euthanised following injuries.

In fact it’s no coincidence that one of the points of greatest resistance to change on the part of the industry is on accepting a fair and impartial external system to control its actions and those of its members.

One of the functions of this organism is to guarantee communication with the outside world and to adopt marketing strategies which can promote the industry and look after its public image by making it presentable. One example of this type of promotional activity is represented by the Irish industry’s programme of school initiatives, which aims to attract children and teenagers to racing.

In order to guarantee an acceptable public image, especially in countries where public opinion about animal welfare is strong, it is essential to organise a greyhound adoption system which allows the industry to offload some of the surplus dogs it no longer requires in a socially acceptable manner. So basically one part of the dogs that are no longer needed –  those offered for adoption – is used to cover up the thousands of dogs that are killed every year, thus feeding the myth that dog racing is a sport in which the dogs are athletes who retire to the good life like pensioners at the end of their careers. The number of dogs offered for adoption by the industry varies from country to country, in Ireland according to GRAI (Greyhound Rescue Association Ireland) 444 were directly homed in 2015 and 517 in 2016, set against around 18,000 new pups bred there each year. Thanks to this system, some trainers can offload greyhounds that are no longer cost effective and make room in their kennels for new specimens more able to yield profits, all the while appearing to the general public to show consideration for the dogs.

Another marketing tactic is to qualify as a ‘sport’ an activity aimed at making profits in which the key players – the dogs – are actually passive subjects. The industry thinks it can justify injuries and deaths on the track by comparing dog racing to human extreme sports , the difference being that a man who decides to do paragliding and crashes is well aware of the risks to start off with, whereas a greyhound can’t choose and is the only one who risks his life. Commercial greyhound racing is not a sport, but a business aimed at producing profits at the expense of the dogs.

State authorised betting

Commercial greyhound racing is based on a betting system authorised by the state. This is necessary for two reasons: the first is to avoid as far as possible that the revenue generated by betting ends up fuelling criminal circles, and the second is to guarantee the state with a source of revenue. However, the decline in betting has drastically reduced the industry’s contributions to state revenue.

An industrial breeding system

The aim of an industrial scale breeding system is to provide the industry with the main tools required for its existence, the greyhounds.

The litters, which are produced via artificial insemination, are planned in such a way as to produce dogs as well suited to track racing as possible. Some of the morphological and behavioural characteristics of greyhounds bred by the industry are different from those of greyhounds not bred for racing.

This industrial scale system for producing litters is intrinsic to the phenomenon known as overbreeding, that is the systematic production of more puppies than will ever be used in the races. The racing industry has to overbreed because it is the least expensive way of having competitive dogs that can guarantee adequate earnings which are higher than the costs involved.

Besides, the system works because the excess dogs that are not cost effective can easily be eliminated: after all, there are too many of them to be adopted and too many to be fed and cared for for life by the owners.

The industry factors in the possibility of euthanising the dogs for economical reasons, but that doesn’t stop many greyhounds which it has no use for from disappearing in rather less refined ways. In Ireland, at least 10,000 greyhounds are unaccounted for each year, in other words they disappear into thin air; in Australia, a government enquiry in Queensland revealed that between 2003 and 2013 a surplus of 7,263 dogs were unaccounted for; in the UK in 2006 it was discovered that a single man by the name of David Smith had killed by bolt gun about 10,000 greyhounds which he had then buried on his land, for a fee of £10 per dog.

An identification system based on tattoos

Identifying the dogs through tattoos instead of microchips allows the industry to have its own autonomous system for registering the dogs, or rather the litters, and thus of keeping its dogs separate from official data banks. This system also allows it to get rid of unwanted dogs easily, simply by not tattooing them.

An organised system of professional kennels

Once they have been bred in great numbers, the greyhounds then need to be selected and prepared for racing. The system of professional kennels allows trainers to discard dogs which show no aptitude for racing and to train those regarded as suitable. Track racing is not natural for greyhounds and requires a specific kind of training aimed at accentuating their predatory and competitive behavioural traits.

The dogs’ lives are governed by training periods alternated with periods of being shut up in kennels; they often wear muzzles even when they are not being trained.

A network of racetracks

Obviously, in order to race dogs specifically equipped racetracks will be needed, which can be either privately owned or owned by the regulating authority itself, i.e. the industry. The tracks have their own kennels for the dogs, a veterinary clinic and a fridge for storing the bodies of euthanised dogs, as well as public restaurant areas. At some racetracks it’s possible to bet on races taking place elsewhere while at others, at the tracks owned by the bookkeepers, races are broadcast on the internet and bets are managed remotely.

In conclusion…

We have said that all of these elements make up a system in which each one has a precise role to play and has an influence on all of the others and on the general end result. For example, without overbreeding there would be no selective training carried out in  professional racing kennels, nor the search for a champion able to earn a lot of money.

Equally, without a separate regulating system for the industry’s dogs, it wouldn’t be possible to save money on costs, for if greyhounds were legally recognised as pets it would not be possible to kill them in such large numbers and in ways and with methods beyond the reach of pet welfare laws. Indeed it is no coincidence that the industry does not promote greyhounds as pets in general, only at the end of their ‘careers’ and not all of them, thus feeding the myth of the athlete happily enjoying his retirement.

But the most important conclusion we can draw from this short analysis is that commercial greyhound racing, i.e. the greyhound racing industry, is a system which is intrinsically set up to produce profits by exploiting the dogs. It is a system in which all reform of any of its parts cannot at any rate alter its substance: without overbreeding there would be no industry, and there is overbreeding because the dogs are viewed as tools and not pets, and the dogs are not pets because the industry manages to avoid the welfare rules protecting pets; without a professional kennel system run by trainers there would be no dogs suited for racing, and so forth. And since all of this is propped up by the state ruling which allows it, the road to salvation for the dogs has to be via state laws prohibiting the racing industry.

By Massimo Greco

Translated by Isobel Deeley

@Massimo Greco

@Pet levrieri

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