Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why End Greyhound Racing?

On November 4, 2008, Massachusetts voters will have the opportunity to put an end to the greyhound racing industry in the Commonwealth by voting Yes on Question 3.

Opponents of Question 3--primarily those involved in the greyhound racing industry--say that the two tracks remaining in Massachusetts (Wonderland Park in Revere and the Raynham-Taunton track) generate substantial income for state coffers while providing as many as 1,000 jobs. They argue that greyhounds are treated like athletes and do not receive inhumane treatment.  

Proponents of Question 3--those interested in seeing an end to commercial dog racing--say that the industry is inhumane.  They site the following: greyhounds spend at least 20 hours a day in cages barely large enough to stand up or turn around in; are fed cheap, raw meat that comes from dying, downed, or diseased livestock; and are injured at an unacceptable rate (nearly 800 injuries reported since 2002--80% of which were broken legs).

By its own admission, the greyhound racing industry is dying its own slow death.  Gambling receipts have declined precipitously, Wonderland chose to cut back to a seasonal racing schedule, and even a multi-million dollar bailout served up by the legislature has not resolved their ongoing problems.

So why not just let the industry continue on its path to decline? Why vote now to end racing? Because Question 3 calls for a phased end to racing by 2010.  This gradual closure allows kennels to move their "good" dogs to tracks outside of Massachusetts and allows workers to plan ahead for job transition.  On the other hand, if the tracks close down suddenly (as did the track in Plainfield, Connecticut in 2005), not only will workers suddenly be at a loss, but hundreds of dogs (those not "worth" transporting to another race meet) will suddenly be homeless.  Voting Yes on Question 3 allows the tracks, the employees, and the rescue network supporting greyhound adoptions to plan ahead for the end.

Both of our local newspapers--the Daily Hampshire Gazette and The Recorder--have come out against Question 3.  They say the industry is dying anyway, that abuse isn't a good enough reason to stop the income to the state, and that anti-racing advocates should take their case to the legislature.

Aside from the fact that anti-racing advocates have taken their case to the legislature on more than one occasion to no avail, any editorial position that doesn't consider evidence of systematic mistreatment of animals to be reason enough to end an industry is morally bankrupt.

The fact is that our society has been willing to accept a double standard for dogs who share our lives as companions and those used for commercial gain.  While we wouldn't leave our own dogs confined to a crate for 20 hours every day, we have accepted that greyhound kennels do. While we wouldn't feed our own dogs raw meat unfit for human consumption in order to save a buck, we have accepted that greyhound kennels do.  While we wouldn't shoot our own dogs up with cocaine to make them faster, force them to run until their legs break or their hearts give out, or prevent them from living a life of happy companionship, we have accepted that greyhound kennels do.

It's time to end greyhound racing in Massachusetts.  Vote Yes on 3.

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