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
July 24, 2014 Comments Off on Part I: Racing Greyhounds Are Dogs, Too
This post, the first in a three-part series, will undoubtedly have greyhound racing industry participants and their supporters jumping up and down screaming, “See there. I told you that egg-sucking, chicken-stealing horse’s hang down is anti-racing!” Oh yeah? Not necessarily. I’ll clarify that in later posts. For now, I unabashedly admit that I detest any sort of cruelty to animals. And, I place those who get off on it right up there with child molesters and wife beaters. You know, the same ones who as children and teens got their kicks drowning puppies and sticking firecrackers in kittens’ rectums.
Let’s get something out of the way before dogmen and women dismiss me as being one of those citified, urban people who doesn’t understand the ways of rural America. I grew up on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country and in San Antonio. My father was a cattle breeder and one of the first in the U.S. to cross Brahmans with Herefords and Angus, the point of which was to produce cattle with leaner meat and that thrive in semi-arid regions of North America. I worked summers and some weekends on the ranch during high school and beyond, helping out with roundups, roping, feeding, fence building, plowing, etc. I calf-roped and rode bareback bronc several times in amateur rodeos. My father having passed, we now run a cow/calf operation on the ranch. So, I’m a teeny-weeny bit familiar with the rural scene.
I believe it is important for readers to know that when I embarked on this project over 4 years ago, I knew little to nothing about the world of greyhound racing. I didn’t have a clue as to how the dogs were raised, trained, housed or cared for at the tracks. And I had no idea what happened to them once their racing days were over. All I knew was that these 4-legged hotrods were the fastest animals next to cheetahs I had ever seen. Having spent several months researching the history of the greyhound breed and greyhound racing in the U.S., a lot of what I learned about their lives as racers, some which appears in this post, brought tears to my eyes.
Please read the following over and over until it’s indelibly seared into your consciousness. In spite of the personal observations and opinions that follow here and in later posts, when I put this film together I will do so in a manner that I hope will have thinking people wondering which side I’m on, if either. My film will include documented facts and experts’ opinions and will leave it up to audiences to do as they wish with what they see and hear. The risk of course—substantiated by history–is that humankind cannot always be trusted to do the right thing, whatever that is in this case.
Here’s something else that may be important: The story my film will tell will cover a lot more than just the war between the greyhound racing community and those who want dog racing gone. So, I say to both those camps, “This film will not be all about you.” The stars of this flick will be the only things worthy of real star status: the greyhounds.
Just as drama/storytelling requires conflict, perhaps so do compelling blog posts. Ok, let’s talk about the issue of whether or not I’m personally anti-racing, since that seems to be important to lots of people on both sides of the controversy. As noted near the beginning of this post, I’m not necessarily anti-racing, but there are certain aspects of commercial dog racing that give me the blues, just as they do the majority of Americans who are aware of them.
In the realm of greyhound racing in the U.S. there are lots of observable and behind-the-scenes practices. Most are deemed mandatory given the economics of greyhound racing as it was conducted in the past and is today. By today’s humane standards as applied to mammals, especially companion animals, many of those practices rise to the level of being abusive if not cruel. For example, there are thousands of young, in-the-prime-of-life racing greyhounds killed every year. Why? Because after they are physically and mentally depleted, no longer able to win or place, they become a liability. The cost of housing and feeding that liability is easily cut with a bullet or a dose of Fatal-Plus or adoption. The dog racing industry claims that 90 to 95% of retired racing greyhounds are adopted. But when asked for documentation to support those numbers, they cannot or will not. Therefore, educated minds will likely assume the industry’s PR person pulled those numbers out of her hiney.
Whatever the true stats, there are in fact thousands of unadopted greyhounds every year whose retirement parties begin with a ride in the kill truck and ends with a bullet or a syringe. Others continue living isolated lives in small cages while waiting to be cut up at vet schools or to donate their hemoglobin-rich blood at pet blood bank facilities. Some go back to the farm to push out litter after litter of future racers, others as sperm donors.
Made aware of those facts, most folks might conclude, as I do, that those retirement packages are rather warped expressions of appreciation to animals that ran their hearts out, risking life and limb on the track, being confined in small cages the majority of their lives, and helping put beans on the table for their owners, the tracks and the people who won bets on them. And that for all they endured and willingly gave, 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.
Quoting animal researcher, scientist and published author Dr. Gay Bradshaw:
“Dogs are highly social. Their brains are literally sculpted by early love and family. They are born into love and relationships, shaped by love and relationships, and thrive on such. For their health to develop and flourish, dogs need that unconditional, consistent, and respectful bonding and care. Living in crates, isolated for most of the time and subjected to domination, dogs suffer immense stress and emotional pain. Just like us, dogs need open, non-dominating, loving relationships and the ability to live with dignity and the freedom to exercise their natural mental and physical needs.”
Is it any wonder why most people grimace when hearing the words greyhound racing? Many are saddened to the point of tearing up when learning how the gentlest, most beautiful of man’s best and most loyal friend suffers at the hands of the greyhound racing industry. Beginning almost 100 years ago and continuing today, why the industry chose (it was never forced on them) to treat their racers as callously as they do, is one of the questions my film will address.
Something to ponder until Part II of this series of blog posts appears in several days.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Your comments are welcome. Please take a moment to watch the new trailer. Oh, yes. 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, then there’s a high probability that the ringing in your ears will someday become a gnashing of teeth.
GREYHOUND: Racing Into The Light