Greyhound trainers defend racing as Scottish campaign to ban it gains momentum

  • Video report by ITV News Border's Barnaby Papadopulos

Campaigners in Scotland have told ITV News that last week's inaugural National Greyhound Week was an attempt by the sports governing body to whitewash an industry they claim is harmful to animals.

It comes as an attempt to ban the practice in Scotland gathers momentum, with activists hoping that such a ban would boost a similar campaign in England.

But people working in the industry described it as a well-regulated sport which is a historic part of local culture.

Speaking to ITV News, one trainer from Workington in Cumbria, who has raced and re-homed greyhounds for twenty-five years, said it was a "generational thing."

"My granddad raced, he sort of passed it on to my dad to race and he passed it on to me.

"Back in the day, as you know, it was a very important sport, especially in mining towns like Workington."

  • "It's about the pressure they're under"

But Gill Docherty, one of the directors of the campaign group Scotland Against Greyhound Exploitation (SAGE), said: "There's been a huge amount of scrutiny around all of the statistics and all of the evidence that they themselves have presented in terms of dogs being doped, dogs being neglected, injuries on the track, and deaths."

According to figures published by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, 99 greyhounds died on regulated tracks last year, and 4,242 injuries were reported.

In 2018, there were 242 deaths on regulated tracks and 4,963 injuries. New welfare standards were introduced the following year.

To Gill, the first National Greyhound Week was a response to "pressure" on the sport.

"It's about the pressure that they're under for what's happening up here in Scotland," she said.

What are anti-racing campaigners calling for in Scotland?

There's now just one, unregulated greyhound track in Scotland, Thornton Greyhound Stadium in Kirkcaldy near Glasgow.

In 2019, SAGE launched a petition to close the track, which has since gained almost 30,000 signatures.

MSPs will next consider evidence in committee on the petition in November and campaigners hope they'll publish a recommendation before the end of the year.

In March, the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission undertook a review of the sport and concluded that no new greyhound tracks should be opened in Scotland.

But it stopped short of recommending that Thornton Stadium be closed.

Ms Docherty added that the end of greyhound racing in Scotland could energise similar campaigns in England and Wales, where there are still a number of tracks.

"I would love it if a ban in Scotland would lead the way for the rest of the UK," she said.

"Certainly if we are successful, SAGE will not wrap up; we will throw our weight behind helping England and Wales."

Joseph Edgar said greyhound racing was well regulated

But Joseph Edgar suggested that racing was one of the "most regulated" sports in England.

"The amount of unannounced visits and things we have and the welfare initiatives our governing body put in," he said.

"We've got a good team of people in our kennels who look after the dogs fantastically and they want for nothing, really."

"We're coming up to 100 years of Greyhound racing soon," he added.

"It provides a lot of jobs all along. There are 7,000 people who work directly in greyhound racing and there are all the indirect jobs.

"It's a fantastic thing for people to do."

National Greyhound Week "a huge success"

A spokesperson for the Greyhound Board of Great Britain said: “Our inaugural National Greyhound Week was a huge success and showcased the very best of licensed greyhound racing.

“NGW also gave us the opportunity to recognise and celebrate the many hard-working individuals - trainers, owners and stadium staff - who have contributed to the success of our sport whilst upholding the very highest standards of welfare for all our registered greyhounds.

“As always, there will be those who seek to undermine our sport by spreading myths and misleading stories.

"Greyhound welfare is an absolute priority within licensed racing and we are wholly transparent in the way greyhounds are cared for and how we seek to continuously enhance standards."

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