April 28, 2011
by John Mottern
Animal welfare groups and concerned citizens from around Ireland and across the world gathered for a protest in front of the Irish Department of Agriculture today to denounce the proposed plan to export Irish greyhound to China for a the development of a racing industry. The Irish Greyhound Board, IGB, which is a semi-government entity and receives large government financing each year, is proposing a partnership with an un-named Chinese financial group to develop the emerging racing industry in China with Irish greyhounds while also helping to oversee the development of stadiums and related businesses.
The IGB is seeking approval for the export from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Finance which oversees greyhound issues and welfare in Ireland. Groups from the United States, Spain and England attended the rally and have waged a large media and grassroots effort to oppose the proposal.
The protesters, numbering over 50 people, were asking the Irish government to deny the request by the IGB to export to China where basic human and animal rights are historically ignored. A rash of images have swept across the internet showing gruesome photographs of dogs being slaughtered for meat in China. Bernie Wright of Greyhound Action stated "We would like to have greyhound racing end, full stop because of all the deaths here in Ireland. If they go to China it will be ten-fold worse than it is here."
China has a well documented trade and long history of using dogs for human consumption and also for the fur trade. Recently an animal welfare group in China stopped a truckload of over 50 dogs on their way to a butcher. Traffic was stopped and finally the group was able to prevent the dogs from reaching the marketplace.
According to Adrian Neilan, CEO of the Irish Greyhound Board, in a letter to the editor of the Irish Examiner, "We will be ensuring that our world leading stringent standards would be followed on all matters relating to health and welfare of the greyhounds racing in China under the supervision of Irish vets, trainers and stewards. The Irish Greyhound Board would own and care for all of the greyhounds being transported and raced in China, which will ensure absolute control and integrity within a very strong welfare framework that is already provided by the Board." The paper received a wave of responses to the letter challenging the ability of the IGB to fulfill it's promises of welfare in a country like China and the question was raised as to what would be done with greyhounds that either do not make the grade or are at the end of their short racing careers while in China.
Anet James, a staff member for the American-European Greyhound Alliance (AEGA) who traveled here from the United States said, "Greyhounds have been quietly exploited in the sport of racing all around the world. Sending these Irish greyhounds to China will be a blatant disregard for these animals' well being. There will undoubtedly be horrific abuses of these dogs while in China, which is a country without any animal welfare laws, not to mention basic human rights laws."
Anna Clements, founder of the Spanish organization SOS Galgos which works against the mal-treatment of Irish greyhounds and Spanish galgos, said. "I traveled here from Spain to give support and express our organization's deep concern about the export of Irish greyhounds to China. Since the 1940s the Irish had been exporting greyhounds to Spain where there was enormous suffering inflicted upon the dogs during and after their racing careers. Legal racing no longer exists in Spain largely due to public opinion against the sport and I must say we don't want the same suffering to happen again, especially in a country like China."
Marion Fitzgibbon, Co-Founder of the AEGA, also attended the demonstration traveling from Limerick. She commented that, "I want to emphasize that at least 12,000 greyhounds are unwanted in Ireland every year. These are the dogs that will end up going to China to face a terrible fate. We are asking citizens to lend their voices to this issue and to contact the Irish government to appeal to them to not give permission for these exports."
Louise Coleman, President of the AEGA, said in a phone interview from the USA, "If the IGB and Irish government go through with this project we will be keeping a very close eye on what will ultimately be an unacceptable and cruel situation in China. It's just common sense not to do this but when there are visions of big profit mixed with empty promises anything can sound like a good idea."
The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Finance are addressing the issue as the battle between the two side grows and becomes more heated. In a letter today in response to the AEGA Thomas Pringle T.D. wrote, "I have made representations with Mr. Shane McEntee T.D., Minister of State, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, with Special Responsibility for Forestry, Food Safety, Greyhounds & Horticulture, regarding the plans by the Irish Greyhound Board to export greyhounds to China.
I explained to the Minister that a formal proposal has been submitted to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and is awaiting Departmental approval. There are grave concerns considering China does not have in place a single law to protect the welfare of any species of animal. Its reputation in relation to animal welfare has been, and remains, one of the most abysmal in the world. That in some provinces, it is legal to shoot unaccompanied dogs on sight.
I asked the Minister to take into account these issues before making a decision to send Irish dogs to a place where they will have no legal protection, and where a fate worse than death may await them."