GREYHOUNDS: LETTER: Crosbie: no room for 'secret society' in welfare battle.
Annette Crosbie (pictured) feels statistics relating to ex-racers should be available to all MR GIBBON (Letters, September 28) challenges Helen Warne to provide details of her sample survey. How about challenging the NGRC for the statistical data they hold for the whole country which will show exactly the average race career, average age at retirement and how many are destroyed? Couldn't the full-time Retired Greyhound Co-ordinator turn his hand to this?
Except that we all know that the NGRC is a secret society, disclosing no hard information about the dogs because it would expose the spin they put on welfare. Alistair McLean was spinning faster than Wonderwoman in his letter of August 24 when he referred to his discussions with DEFRA to "help" on the Animal Welfare Bill and "ensure that the rigor and content of the Bill will be appropriate". In other words, to make sure that no-one outside the greyhound industry has the right to look at any aspect of care of the dogs; "keep it in-house, keep it secret" is the motto.
Not surprisingly, a lot of people disagree. I do not know Helen Warne but I had read the comments from her and others to DEFRA on the Animal Welfare Bill and what should be done to secure the welfare of the greyhounds. Emails on the subject are invited by DEFRA to animal.welfarebillatgsi.gov.uk and published on www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/welfare/bill/gwg--comments and is well worth a look. The lack of trust in the NGRC and the BGRB is evident. Even better, write to your MP asking for their support for licensing of greyhounds used for racing, in the knowledge that the NGRC and BGRB oppose it. So it must be right for the dogs.
If the conditions for housing, running and retiring the dogs accord with standards set by animal welfare experts and are scrutinised by a responsible body outside the greyhound industry, maybe the human organisation of the industry doesn't matter. There can be Lord Lipsey's "entertainment centres" of restaurants and casinos. Though if bookmaker-owned tracks provided sufficient capacity, why would bookmakers need to subsidise tracks providing evening meet-ings through the voluntary levy? They don't need champions like Fire Height Dan running for the afternoon punters. I am not naive . . . the pushme-pull-you game of government and bookmakers includes FOBTs, change from betting tax to profits tax and an increase in the voluntary levy. Casino opportunities have proved limited though smaller tracks like Kinsley will no doubt qualify.
But if Helen Warne is right and BAGS is leading to shorter racing lives and the industry continues to make inadequate provision for kennels (there is a limit to the numbers which can be homed) then greyhound race tracks will become the canine killing fields of the future. How will the bookmakers feel if their voluntary levy goes to support ailing tracks - not kennels - and they get the blame?
ANNETTE CROSBIE Wimbledon London SW20
( Editor's note - The NGRC/BGRB case for selfregulation is partly based on it being more cost efficient and sensible for the sport to be regulated by those with specialist knowledge of it, and the fear that the additional costs of outside regulation may be enough to tip the balance to put marginal tracks out of business. Quite why it should be suggested BAGS leads to shorter racing lives is a surprise, when it actually helps fund track improvements. The Fund supports all tracks because BAGS is part of an infrastructure that involves the entire sport - people breed greyhounds dreaming of Derby winners, not graders at Brough Park! The Racing Post has welcomed the views of carers such as Annette Crosbie because they have raised the welfare profile to the benefit of greyhounds, although we recognise the irritation that greyhound fans feel at the implication they don't 'care as much'. The reality is different - and the NGRC and BGRB is taking a far more rigorous welfare stance - which is to be congratulated, although that would probably choke in Ms Crosbie's throat! She doesn't appear to recognise the difference which arguably she has helped bring about - for instance, having Lord Lipsey as BGRB chairman, a man, like her, who has always put welfare at the top of the agenda. The Racing Post is also dubious about the merit of setting up swathes of retirement homes across the nation for greyhounds when society is failing in its duty to significant sectors such as pensioners. We believe the finding of real homes for greyhounds is actually a social service given the fantastic, placid nature of the animal, and the fact they do not require much exerecise - perfect, for instance, for OAPs. Perhaps local authorities could be encouraged to explain this, rather than bury the sport under red tape. All those who care should feel qualified to put their opinion to MPs, or DEFRA, and not just activists. JIM CREMIN)