Monday, March 12, 2012

Friday Hound Blogging (Monday Edition)

I'm going to step of of character today to write about something that's happening in the greyhound racing industry that while not totally unexpected, is very troubling. Most of the time Friday Hound Blogging is my own sarcastic view of the racing industry because that's the only way I can wrap my head around an activity that institutionalizes cruelty. I've spent years interacting with breeders, trainers and owners on blogs, message boards and web sites and I have met a few that seem to genuinely care about their dogs, yet even those few live in an environment that values living creatures only as commodities, and brings enormous economic pressures to bear which dictate that even those with the best of intentions must often act in ways that are detrimental to the health and well being of the greyhounds.

I used to argue with greyhound racing representatives using some of the very arguments you are probably hearing now in various state legislatures and was usually met with dissembling, obfuscation and personal attacks until it finally occurred to me that people who race greyhounds are so bound up in their worldview no amount of persuasion was going to penetrate. So I created Friday Hound Blogging as a place where I could point and laugh, ridicule being the last refuge of my anger towards people who, to me anyway  seemed willing participants in a lifestyle, the very tenets of which forced them to act in inhumane, callous ways. I wanted to believe their hollow arguments, their constant changing of the subject whenever the treatment--or more likely mistreatment---of racing greyhounds made its way into the media  was the result of at least some deep level of discomfort, some tension between how they saw themselves and what the reality of greyhound racing kept throwing in their faces year after deadly year.

It was no surprise to me that they hated the anti-racing people, after all we were constantly presenting them with the disconnect between what they said was true and what the actual lives of racing greyhounds was like and they were constantly brushing us off as hypocrites, liars and con artists.

Reality has a way of breaking down even the most staunchly defended delusion though, and what is happening to greyhound racing now as states and the very people who were once the industry's allies--track owners--are coming together to face the new economic reality means quite simply, greyhound racing is on the way out. It is no longer a question of if, but when and how.

A wounded, cornered animal is at its most dangerous though and the greyhound racing industry is lashing out in fear and hatred which is putting greyhounds already in a precarious situation even further at risk. There is a movement in the industry to deny dogs for adoption to anti-racing adoption groups, such as the one with which I volunteer. There has long been an undercurrent of ill will among greyhound racing people towards adoption groups that are not afraid to stand up to the industry, but the sheer number of dogs needing homes, and the PR cost of continuing to abandon dogs to almost certain death meant, from the viewpoint of racing proponents, the devil had to be given his due.

Now however, as the final days of racing close in, all pretense of the long time industry mantra "The dogs come first" has been thrown to the wind and an overt attack on anti-racing adoption groups has begun. The first target: Greyhound Companions of New Mexico. You can read more about the situation here, but the most telling aspect in terms of the greyhound racing industry's reaction to its impending demise occurred when a representative of GCNM contacted a breeder in North Carolina who had been identified as the source of the attack:
I had the misfortune of speaking with the breeder whose misguided notion started this recent movement to bar anyone from bringing us dogs. Wow - what a loose canon! After she yelled at me for about half an hour, I finally said, Gee this isn't very lady-like of you - and she said (I kid you not, she really said this - actually, she yelled it), "I'M NOT A LADY, I'M A BITCH and I'll keep being one until I get all the groups like yours shut down!"
 Now, you may say this is just one person who neglected to put on the mask of concern that most racing industry people wear when dealing with the public, and you'd be right on two counts, one that this is just a single person, and two that the appearance of concern for the welfare of racing greyhounds is just that, an appearance. The fact that this breeder is willing to throw the safety of perhaps hundreds of innocent greyhounds under the bus in the service of her personal vendetta against a single person who is only a part of a larger organization is not a bug of this industry, it's a feature.

This breeder is only the most visible aspect of what is becoming more and more obvious as the curtain falls on greyhound racing and that is the industry is going to blame the anti-racing movement for its demise. Certainly the movement had an effect, but like with most things in life, it's not that simple. However, one of the successes of the anti-racing movement was to bring increased public scrutiny to greyhound racing and force it out of old practices which probably resulted in saving the lives of thousands of dogs over the years.

But now, as this breeder illustrates, and as the industry flails its way to the grave greyhounds are at risk again, and again it will be public scrutiny that saves them. We must redouble our efforts to monitor the industry; we must work with newly acquired allies in state legislatures not only to end racing, but to control how racing ends, putting the safety and welfare of the dogs at a premium.

Whether this breeder speaks for many or not isn't the point. She speaks from an industry that for too long has abused, neglected and killed innocent living creatures for profit, and then has fled from that responsibility. Now they are running out of places to hide their despicable craft, but not out of ways to harm greyhounds. Like the wounded, cornered animal, they must be handled with caution and resolve.

The lives of thousands are at stake.

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