The Humane Case for Greyhound Racing

by Dennis McKeon

I just finished listening to a broadcast from Florida, where a lobbyist for greyhound racing debated the “issues” with a lobbyist from an anti-racing group. To spare you the tedium of listening to it yourself, it was pretty much a win for the anti-racing lobbyist, as I heard it.

Not that the pro-racing side didn’t make valuable points. The lobbyist was well prepared with the financial, wagering and tax revenue data, which supported his point of view, that greyhound racing is far from a dying sport, and still makes significant contributions to Florida’s economy and tax coffers.

Predictably, the anti-racing lobbyist fairly ignored those facts, and went straight for the heartstrings, making the usual claims of cruel and inhumane confinement and handling, dietary insufficiency, and unnecessary exposure to injury, while implying that the use of illegal and performance-enhancing drugs is more than a rare and, almost always, anomalous occurrence.

The pro-racing lobbyist made few convincing rebuttals to much of that, and had he been able. was not given a great deal of time to make them,

What was noteworthy, was that the anti-racing lobbyist admitted that today, “most greyhounds ARE adopted” after their racing careers have ended, and he waxed, near rhapsodically, about what superb pets they make.

Now that admission is quite revealing. And that is because canines either make great pets, or not so great pets—or unmanageable pets—for a number of reasons. There is a both a nature and a nurture component to the making of a great pet. There are inputs and feedback regarding both nature and nurture.

The “nature” aspect includes things like genetics, diversity, bloodlines, temperament, disposition, conformation, and how those things either may enhance or inhibit the greyhound’s ability to function and perform its job. In the case of the greyhounds most of us know, that would be chasing a mechanical lure around an oval shaped race track.

“Nurture” involves inputs and feedback, as they relate to performance of that function, and then, to selectivity when the breeder is choosing which individuals are to be bred.

The greyhounds’ “inputs”, in addition to the previously mentioned aspects of “nature”, are things such as environment, raising, handling, diet, and training. These all enhance or detract from the greyhound’s ability to function, and either limit or expand his capacity to function at a certain level.

The “feedbacks”, which are used to improve and perfect the inputs, are the results of actual, head-to-head racing competition. These competitions allow breeders and trainers to see, in no uncertain terms, whether the inputs they applied were appropriate, and when and where they may be improved upon or changed. They also enable breeders to make informed decisions about which individual greyhounds and greyhound families, are on the cutting edge of adaptation to the function of racing.

Now each and every greyhound is the embodiment—the sum total—of all these inputs and feedbacks, from nature to nurture, from the whelping box to the starting box. If they indeed do make such great pets, then it can only be a result of all these things—because of them, and not in spite of them. That is how canines work.

So we have a population of dogs who were never bred with the intention of being pets, or anything other than performing athletes, who have become a literal pet phenomenon.

And we have a ringleader of the anti-racing movement endorsing them as wonderful pets, while tacitly implying that none of these things we have discussed here, that make up the individual greyhound—nature, nurture, inputs, feedback and function—have any bearing on that, whatsoever.

Accordingly, we must then infer that it is cruel and inhumane treatment, and widespread “abuse” of these greyhounds, which has made them the unprecedented success they have become as companions in retirement, the world over.

You decide.

copyright, 2017