Part II: What If
August 9, 2014 Comments Off on Part II: What If
The rabid, gums-bared reaction to Part 1 by many in the dog racing community and their supporters did not disappoint. Like sharks in a world of chum, the usual suspects reacted precisely as I anticipated. Talk about banging on their keyboards like they owed them money.
Something got by me in Part I for which I apologize. Regarding the sentences, “…, all they ever asked for was what every dog needs and craves, in fact lives for: human affection and companionship and to run and play and socialize with their fellow canines. Yet from birth to death, if not adopted, they are denied even that.” That’s not entirely accurate. Until they are shipped off to a track or to another farm to be trained, they are allowed to run and play and socialize with other dogs on their birth farm. But, I do stand by my statement that they are denied human affection and companionship from birth to death if not adopted.
I have not walked in the shoes of folks involved in greyhound racing, so I don’t really know how they perceive the world. I can only guess based on their actions, what I learned from my research, and from the conversations/interviews I’ve had with them. I believe that the glaring irony of how greyhounds lived and were treated for many centuries compared to their lives today as expendable racing machines is lost on them. These extraordinary dogs are the same regal animals that for millennia were exalted companions to kings and queens and other aristocracy, and whose dream-like beauty enhanced many of the great Classic and Renaissance works of art. Brought to America, their gift eventually became their curse.
Let’s consider some ‘what ifs’ that would probably make greyhound racing more acceptable to the American public, even though the economics and M.O. of dog racing would not permit any of the following.
What if racing greyhounds could roam free to run and play and socialize with each other in very large and secure fenced-in areas without muzzles during the daylight hours when not on the track? What if each and every dog received at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted individual vocal and hands-on petting from kennel trainers every day? What if every culled greyhound puppy and every retired racing greyhound as a strictly enforced rule was guaranteed adoption, the cost of transporting, feeding and caring for the dogs awaiting adoption to be paid by the breeder/owner, kennel owner, tracks and/or the industry’s NGOs? What if no expense would be spared to repair a broken leg or hock or any other sort of injury or illness that might befall a racer? What if no expense would be spared to prepare a safe track surface following each one or two races? What if the turns on tracks had much larger radiuses? Better yet, what if dog tracks were simply long straightaways, as they initially were?
These dogs are essentially drag racers. They’re all about acceleration and speed, and they don’t always do well negotiating sharp turns when all bunched up, especially going into and through the first turn at the highest speed they’ll achieve over the entire track. I believe injuries on straight tracks would be almost non-existent. The problem of course is that racing, whether it’s dogs, horses or cars, is real estate intensive. A straight track with adequate spectator stands for dog racing would likely require more acreage than the ovals.
What if today the greyhound racing industry generated enough revenue to address even one of the afore-mentioned issues? Sadly, it does not. But then the economics and conduct of dog racing have never favored the wellbeing of the dogs beyond keeping them fed, watered, relieved and in good enough shape to place in or win more races. What about their psychological health? Is that not just as important as their physical health? Of course it is.
I recall a story Wayne Strong told me during one of our interview sessions. Seems he had a dog that wasn’t running as well as he thought it should or could. He instructed the trainer to spend some time with the dog prior to the race; to hold the dog close and talk to him, and tell him to “get this race” or something like that. Well, the dog won the race. Now, I don’t believe for a moment the dog understood what he was being told (although my greyhound seems to understand a lot of what I say). But I do believe that moment of being spoken to and touched/held by a human in an affectionate manner, probably for the first time in its life, lifted that dog’s spirits to the extent he went out and blew away the competition.
Beginning around the late 80s/early 90s, when people were becoming aware of how these gentle, people-loving dogs were being caged, denied human affection and companionship, and eventually killed, the American public decided the dog racing industry needed an economic and moral kick in the rear.
Sharply-declining attendance and money wagered at dog tracks that continues today are pretty clear indications that an ever-increasing portion of the American public does not tolerate man’s best friend being treated like edible animals. Hey, horse racing is in trouble, too, having had its cover blown in recent years. Seems the blue-blooded Sport of Kings, made up largely of patricians who envision themselves the thoroughbreds of humanity, is crawling with cheating, needle-happy gutter trash.
Of course, the public’s disgust with dog racing is only one factor in the decline-of-greyhound-racing equation, and whether or not it’s the prime factor is debatable. The industry places most of the blame for its woes on other gambling options. They believe folks who enjoy gambling have found those options, including lotteries, more compelling than betting on the dogs; an exercise that requires too much time and mental energy. However, many of the recreational gamblers with whom I’ve spoken have no interest in betting on the dogs “because of the way they’re treated.”
AR ALERT! AR ALERT! People who gamble for fun may be AR!
An aside for the folks who regularly buy lottery tickets: I recall during a Statistics course in college, a classmate asked the prof what the odds were for winning one of the really big lotteries. In a voice as dry as the course itself, he said the odds for winning were almost the same whether you buy a ticket or not. Perhaps today’s amateur gamblers need to watch Scorsese’s Casino a few more times.
In Part III, I’ll talk about something that’s happening all over the world; something that is affecting almost all animal-exploitive industries including greyhound racing in the U.S.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Your comments are welcome. Once again, if you want to see this film completed and distributed as much as I do, your large or small donation will help make that happen. If you do not want this film completed nor seen by millions, may 1,000 fleas infest your crotch and your arms be too short to scratch.
GREYHOUND: Racing Into The Light