This opinion piece contains some graphic and horrifying pictures of cruelty perpetrated on dogs. Sorry but it does happen and it’s time to wake up to it.
I have a dog and he is my best friend. Where I go he goes, when I eat he eats, when I sleep he sleeps. He loves me and I him.
People tell me he’s “only” a dog; doesn’t speak, doesn’t understand, is only interested in his basic drives of: prey, food, sex and warmth.
Nonsense, Odin my two-year old German Shepherd is typical of all the dogs I have been lucky enough to call friends down through the years. Blitz, Freya, Husky, all now sadly gone, all different breeds, all different temperaments but all similar in the love, loyalty, and the unbridled faithfulness they shared with me and I with them.
Was I just lucky enough to have dogs that loved me and let me love them, were they the only dogs in the world ever to have shared feelings with me? I don’t think so.
Ask any person who has been lucky enough to share their lives with a dog and they will all tell you the same thing. That it’s one of the greatest bonds known to man.
This is why I was so upset and horrified when I was told recently of a practice — allowed to continue and encouraged even, by a European Member State — just down the road from where I live (Olhao, Portugal) less than forty minutes drive, in neighbouring Spain. The “sport” of using galgos (greyhounds in English) as hunting dogs is cruel enough but the treatment of these animals by galgueros their Spanish owners/trainers is horrific.
This misguided sense of machismo allows for the torture and death of more than 50,000 harmless dogs each and every year.
Traditionally in Spain dogs are only used for one season then cruelly put down.
Being “put-down” in Spain is not as what the term euphemistically means in Ireland, Britain or most other civilised countries. In Spain disposing of retired dogs or those which embarrass their “Macho” owners by under performing in hunting are killed in retribution for the “shame” they bring to the galgueros. Not for these the euthanasia of a vets syringe but a cruel and atrocious torture and slow death.
Customary in parts of Spain “not to waste a bullet”
It is customary in parts of Spain “not to waste a bullet” on these animals, instead they are routinely subjected to the sadistic rituals of being dragged behind cars, burning with acid, burying alive or what is called in this sub-human culture, the piano-dance.
The Piano-Dance involves hanging the dog by its neck, the animal’s feet just touching the ground and forcing the dog to perform a macabre and fruitless effort as it struggles vainly to maintain breathing. Tens of thousands of dogs are butchered in this fashion in the fields and woods of Spain every year.
The Legal situation:
The Spanish Animal Welfare Act (32/2007) concerns itself with animal welfare and provides for penalties against those found guilty of animal cruelty. However, the Act is framed for the protection of animals kept for economic purposes and explicitly excludes animals kept for hunting or pets.
Regionally all of the seventeen autonomous regions of Spain have adopted legislation concerning animal welfare but again these regional laws also fail miserably when it comes to the protection of galgos which are in this instances considered “animales de renta” (animals of use to people), and excluded from the protections afforded to companion animals thus the galgos are not protected by either Spanish national or regional laws.
The Irish connection:
In November 1999 The Guardian reported that “nearly all the greyhounds exported into Spain come from Ireland.” Public Affairs Editor Anthony Barnett, wrote that,
“Often the dogs travel in horrific conditions, being kept on trucks for several days with little water or food. Many suffer from dehydration before they get to Spain where they are then caged in tiny kennels with poor lighting and no bedding. Many are injured but are kept racing till they can hardly run.”
The Irish Greyhound Racing Board is a commercial semi-state body part fund through grants from the Irish Government. They claim that the export of greyhounds into Spain has been banned since 1991, however Barnett reports that an Observer Investigation uncovered that an IGB employee had been working hand in glove with Spanish buyers and acting as an agent in Ireland responsible for buying greyhounds intended for export to Spain. The Board have commented that this man was acting in a private capacity.
On October the 27th 2014 the French Gendarmes Maritimes and Port Surveillance platoon at the Cherbourg Ferry Port discovered the bodies 11 greyhounds which had tragically died due to suffocation in transit on an Irish Ferries vessel The Oscar Wilde.
An Irish Ferries spokesperson said they were unaware the dogs were being transported in the vehicle.
In November 2016 I travelled from Ireland to Cherbourg along with my German Shepherd Odin, using a different ferry company. On our windscreen I was required to display a “Dog on board” card issued by the ferry company. Odin spent the twenty one hour crossing in the relative comfort of the on-board kennels and I had free access to visit, feed and walk him on deck.
I did however notice that the van stowed immediately in front of my jeep contained a number of greyhounds bound for the continent. I wrongly assumed that these dogs would be housed in similar kennels. Not the case; they spent the crossing caged in a cramped and unventilated Hiace.
On the 19th of May 2016 the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, told the Dáil (Irish Parliament) that 44 Irish dogs had been exported to Spain during 2015 — similar figures are expected for 2016 — and that he endorses the view of the Irish Greyhound Board that all owners involved in the export of greyhounds to only export to destinations that provide the expected levels of care and management as defined in the IGBs Code of Practice for the welfare of greyhounds.
The cruel and horrendous practices carried out by the galgueros of Spain can in no way be considered as complying with any reasonable standard of care and proper management.
Picking up the pieces:
The issue was raised recently by Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy who said animal rescues all over the Ireland “who are surviving on paltry grants and fund raising are the ones picking up the pieces from the greyhound industry.”
Figures from 2006 and reported by the Journal.ie showed 4,481 litters were registered. With an average of six pups per litter, would make a total of more than 31,367 dogs. Only 23,700 of these were registered to race.
This leaves more than 7,500 greyhound puppies ‘missing’, along with the 8,000 dogs a year that are retired from the industry.
Figures show that these dogs do not end up in rescues or re-homed, “many end up shot or beaten over the head, then thrown into a pit or quarry.” Murphy a former MEP said.
The Irish Government grand aid the Greyhound Board to the tune of sixteen million euros per year. This money — from the Irish taxpayer — goes to an organisation which is failing in it’s duty of care to the animals it is charged with protecting, perhaps it is time for politicians to rethink grant allocations.
What you can do?
Please share this piece with your local public representatives and the relevant political party spokespersons some of whose email addresses follow. It just takes a cut copy and paste.
email@example.com Michael Creed Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine,
firstname.lastname@example.org Mr. Éamon Ó Cuív Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Agriculture
email@example.com Sine Fein Spokesperson on Agriculture
firstname.lastname@example.org Labour Party Spokesperson on Agriculture.