Greyhound racing is fast approaching its final lap

closeup of black greyhound
alex mulhare

29th July 2021


The greyhound racing industry is responsible for the deaths of up to 6,000 dogs in Ireland each year. 


In 2017, a business analysis report was prepared for Greyhound Racing Ireland by Preferred Results Ltd. 


The report notes that the high number of dogs culled each year in Ireland is due to the following factors: the dog “failed to produce qualifying times,” a “failure to produce desired entry-level times,” and an “unacceptable decline in performance.”


In 2020, there were 12,000 dogs bred in this country for the sole purpose of racing. 


As a direct result of high numbers of new dogs bred each year, Ireland supplies around 80 per cent of the greyhounds that race in the United Kingdom.


Although this is a decline on figures seen in previous years, the Irish greyhound industry continues to breed 1,000 per cent more puppies than it actually needs to maintain the sport. 


Speaking to STAND News, Petra Meyer of Clare Greyhound Sanctuary said, “the whole system is geared to produce and then discard surplus dogs, which is untenable from a welfare perspective.”


“There is waning interest in the sport, and the welfare issues are concerning to the general public,” Meyer continued. “But even if racing itself stopped, breeding might continue, and with the domestic market closed, breeders might look to developing markets…There is also a risk of illegal racing taking the place of regulated, legal racing, and that is a welfare nightmare.”


The sport is banned in many countries but continues to operate in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, and in four US States. 


Within these territories, greyhound racing tends to be a core component of the gambling industry, much like horse racing. 


Not only is the Irish greyhound industry benefiting from the exploitation of its dogs, but it also contributes to the country’s colossal gambling addiction. According to the Department of Health, Ireland is resident to approximately 30,000 people with gambling problems. 


“Irish people are the fourth-biggest gamblers in the European Union, losing about €1.36 billion in 2020 alone.”

Irish people are the fourth-biggest gamblers in the European Union, losing about €1.36 billion in 2020 alone. This would average out to a loss of €300 per resident in the Irish State.


Greyhound Racing Ireland is also in receipt of €19.2 million of State funding. This figure includes the additional €2.4 million that was allocated to the industry in Budget 2021.


In 2019, a RED C opinion poll commissioned by the Irish Council Against Blood Sports (ICABS) and Greyhound Action Ireland (GAI), revealed that 66 per cent of the Irish population believe that the Government should defund greyhound racing.


Irish greyhound racing lost several of its sponsors after RTÉ Investigates: Greyhounds Running for Their Lives aired on television in 2019.


This documentary exposed the darker elements of the industry, including 15 licensed knackeries that agreed to kill unwanted greyhounds for a fee of €10 to €35 per dog.


The Department of Agriculture told RTÉ Investigates that, “Dogs, including greyhounds, are classified as a Category 1 animal and cannot enter a Category 2 plant (knackeries), dead or alive.”


Writing for the Journal in 2020, Social Democrat TD for Cork South-West, Holly Cairns, said, “Attendance at greyhound racing meetings fell by 55 per cent between 2008 and 2018 and the combined loss for tracks between 2019 and 2022 is predicted to be €30 million.”


With public interest in the sport waning rapidly, perhaps it is time to listen to those who are left to deal with the repercussions of the greyhound racing industry.


Across the country, animal welfare organisations are vastly underfunded and struggling to stay afloat.


Gillian Bird of the DSPCA (Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) said in a comment to STAND News, “One of the main issues currently is that there is not enough emphasis or funding put into the after-race care of retired or injured animals.”


“Also, there is the issue of overproduction of greyhounds to fulfil the high standards required for the Irish sport,” Bird noted. “If the time trials were less high, then dogs of a lesser speed could be raced and not destroyed or shipped to god knows where when they fail the speed trials.”


In February 2021, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, announced Ireland’s first Animal Welfare Strategy 2021-25.


This strategy will “introduce a new system to improve greyhound traceability led by Rásaíocht Con Éireann.”


Minister McConalogue then launched the Animal Welfare Grant Programme for Registered Animal Charities for 2021 on 5 July.


In 2020, Homes for Unwanted Greyhounds (HUG) was funded through this grant programme.


The Irish greyhound industry has not yet been encouraged to contribute funding towards retirement programmes for its dogs despite its continued State support.




Featured photo by Derek Story

This article was supported by: STAND Programme Coordinator Aimee + Programme Assistant Alex


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