THE IRISH Greyhound Board may repatriate retired Irish greyhounds from China to Europe in an effort to appease concerns by animal welfare activists over a multimillion-euro proposal to develop a racing industry in China.
The board is in talks with the Beijing authorities about establishing a greyhound franchise in China, which would include the export of Irish greyhounds.
Approval to export the animals is under consideration by the Department of Agriculture.
A large part of the proposal involves the development of stadiums and a greyhound racing industry in China. This would still be considered by the board if the export of greyhounds was not approved.
However, the move has sparked concern and protests among animal rights groups because of China’s poor animal welfare record.
“Animal welfare hardly exists in China,” said Mark Beazley, executive director of Irish charity Dogs Trust. “There is a huge amount of well-documented evidence,” he said, giving examples of dogs in China being skinned and used for human consumption.
The board said it would own and care for “all greyhounds being transported and raced in China” to ensure “absolute control and integrity” within a strong welfare framework already provided in Ireland. It said it would do nothing to damage the Irish industry’s image abroad.
However, Dogs Trust said the board was “not in a position to guarantee anything in China once they [the dogs] finish their racing career. My main concern is what happens the greyhounds if they are injured or end their career,” Mr Beazley said. “No matter what the financial arguments for it, these are not sacks of potatoes but sentient creatures. It is not a normal venture.”
A board spokesman said some greyhounds would be kept in China for breeding to maintain the industry while the finances were “so compelling” that it would be “no problem” to take the remaining greyhounds to rehoming projects in Europe.
Irish Greyhound Board chief executive Adrian Neilan said the board “would be happy to fund” someone from Dogs Trust in China to audit welfare standards because “the economic opportunity is so compelling and welfare plan so comprehensive”.
Mr Beazley was unaware of such a proposal.
Greyhound Action Ireland, which held a protest outside the department last Thursday against the planned exports, was sceptical about the board’s comments.
Spokeswoman Bernie Wright said anyone familiar with what she called the board’s “abysmal record” in relation to its responsibility to raced greyhounds in Ireland would find the reassurances “hollow in the extreme”.
Mr Neilan said the venture would provide “substantial multi-year multimillion economic returns to the Government as well as thousands of greyhound owners and breeders”.