Memorandum submitted by Lord Lipsy, Chairman,
British Greyhound Racing Board
In 2001 I initiated a debate on greyhound welfare
in the House. I was critical of industry bodies whom, I felt,
were not treating the subject with sufficient drive. I am pleased
to say, however, that this has changedand indeed began
to do so before I became BGRB chairman on 1 January this year.
Partly this is for commercial reasons: the sport realises that
its customers, whether in betting shops or on track, have to be
confident that it cares for its canine competitors or they will
withdraw their patronage. But partly there has been an entirely
welcome change of culture.
This is reflected for example in the huge increase
in spending in support of the Retired Greyhound Trust. In 2001
after my debate I helped negotiate with the bookmakers a ring-fenced
one-off increase in funding from £250,000 to £500,000.
Last year spending rose to £850,000. Big further increases
in spending are planned, including a major advertising campaign
to find homes for retired greyhounds this autumn. It is worth
noting that if each year just one dog-owning household in a thousand
switched from their present breed to a greyhound, the retirement
problem would be solved.
As the evidence that follows shows, there have
been huge advances. For example, we are pioneering improved racing
surfaces, which are producing highly encouraging injury reductions.
Steps have been taken to secure the independence of track vets.
Every track now has a greyhound welfare liaison officer. The detailed
work of the BGRB's welfare committee, under the admirable chairmanship
of John Haynes, a BGRB director and experienced trainer, has gathered
new impetus. We are working on a new scheme to train the industry's
workforce, including in welfare. The National Greyhound Racing
Club, the industry's rule making and enforcing body, is looking
at ways of tightening its administration of its Rule 18, whereby
changes of ownership are properly registered.
Very importantly, the industry participates
fully in the Greyhound Forum under the Chairmanship of Clarissa
Baldwin OBE of Dog's Trust. The Forum's Charter for the Racing
Greyhound has been widely welcomed, and a timetable for its
full implementation is in place. BGRB maintains a constructive
dialogue with the animal welfare charities, including the League
against Cruel Sports.
All this is encouraging. My main concernand
this was an underlying theme of the recent Westminster Hall debate
initiated by Alan Meale MPsurrounds the 20 or so remaining
independent tracks, where welfare standards are not always adequate.
For example, they generally operate without a vet present. There
can be no justification in our day and age for this, and it is
vital that future regulations under the bill make this law.
My own view is that many of these tracksessentially
"man and boy" outfitswill close anyway, and certainly
will when they are forced to employ vets. Ideally the best of
them will migrate to the NGRC. At the time of writing we are looking
at a scheme to provide loans in support of agreed plans to upgrade
to NGRC standards, saving we hope tracks and jobs as well as ensuring
Finally, I would make a plea for the Committee
not to be tempted to impose some external system of regulation,
for example by local authorities, on the industry. There is a
widespread understanding these days that self-regulation, which
involves an industry internalising the culture of regulation,
is a more effective way of regulating.
Certainly trained and greyhound experienced
NGRC stewards are far more likely to spot wrongdoing or malpractice
than less specialised local authority neophytes. The NGRC is itself
modernising rapidly with the appointment of some outstanding new
stewards, and a move to more openness and accountability. Working
with them and with all sections of the industry, I am confident
we shall deliver.
The British Greyhound Racing Board is the representative
governing authority for greyhound racing run under the rules of
the National Greyhound Racing Club.
(a) Welfare spending is a priority for greyhound racing and
this has coincided with a significant increase in funding from
off-course bookmakers. Due to a new arrangement between the Association
of British Bookmakers (ABB) and the BGRB in April 2004 the money
coming into the sport via the British Greyhound Racing Fund (BGRF)
(6) looks set to increase to some £14 millionapproximately
double the Fund's yield in 2003. (5)
(b) This deal saw the level of payment to the
sport increase from 0.4% of off-course bookmakers' turnover, to
0.6% in 2006 and franked a marked improvement in the relationship
between the ABB and the BGRB.
(c) With the support of the Minister for Sport,
Richard Caborn, more members of the ABB have also been persuaded
that they should make this voluntary payment to the greyhound
racing industry and assured that a substantial increase in welfare
spending would result from it.
(d) Greyhound racing on all levels is committed
as never before to welfare and welcomes the opportunity to contribute
to the formation of the Animal Welfare Bill. The emphasis on best
practice and duty of care is one echoed by the sport itself. With
little money to be made from owning or training the dogs greyhound
people are invariably in the sport for the love of their greyhounds.
They are the first to be incensed by non-typical instances of
cruelty involving a greyhound, and increased powers to tackle
this will be applauded.
(e) The BGRB is concerned over the lack of any
nationally implemented rule regarding the attendance of veterinary
surgeons for all trials and races at Independent tracks. The BGRB
is committed to assisting any Independent that wants to improve
standards/facilities and race under the auspices of the NGRC and
(f) As recognised in the Regulatory Impact Assessment
both the BGRB and the NGRC have been rapidly modernising. The
BGRB seeks to continue this process and the considerable and specialised
welfare work it undertakes without further regulations imposed
from local authorities.
1.1 As the draft Bill explains in part,
there are two types of greyhound racecourse, NGRC and Independent.
1.2 There are 31 greyhound racecourses licensed
by the sport's regulatory authority, the National Greyhound Racing
Club (NGRC) (See Appendix 1) [Not printed]. This total includes
one racecourse in Scotland (Shawfield in Glasgow) and the BGRB
has recently submitted a response to the Scottish Executive (Environment
and Rural Affairs Department) paper, entitled "Proposals
to Revise Existing Animal Welfare Legislation." (Appendix
2) [Not printed]
1.3 There are no NGRC racecourses in Wales
but those located in England cover a vast geographical spread
from Brough Park (Newcastle) to Brighton & Hove.
They are all licensed by and race under the
Rules of Racing of the NGRC (Appendix 3) [Not printed].
1.4 The BGRB represents just those racecourses
that race under the Rules of the NGRC. The rules themselves range
from the design of the jacket worn by the greyhound in a race
to the required presence of a veterinary surgeon trackside for
all trials and racesalso required to check each dog before
and after each race.
1.5 This last rule pertaining to the attendance
of vets is seen by many to be the fundamental difference between
the NGRC tracks (ie those represented by the BGRB) and the 20
or so racecourses that do not race under the rules of the NGRC,
and are called "Independents"sometimes known
colloquially as "flapping tracks".
2. THE WELFARE
2.1 BGRB Welfare Committee
2.1.1 The BGRB Welfare Committee brings
together owners, trainers, breeders, track management, greyhound
veterinary surgeons, representatives of the NGRC and the Retired
Greyhound Trust (RGT).
2.1.2 The purpose of the Committee is to
examine all aspects of the sport that relate to or affect the
welfare of the racing greyhound, and to make recommendations to
the BGRB Board or NGRC Stewards when it considers rules should
be changed or introduced, policy should be updated or other appropriate
action should be taken.
2.1.3 At Poole Greyhound Stadium the Committee
has brought together industry experts to try to reduce the occurrence
of track-based injuries. It is Committee funded with analysis
under the auspices of the Society of Greyhound Veterinarians.
2.1.4 The Committee is also instigating
training/education programmes for staff. It has learned from the
models already in place in horse racing and has visited the Northern
Racing College in Doncaster. Consideration is being given to the
recruitment of a dedicated project leader to assist the Board
with what will be a major step forward for the sport.
2.2 The Greyhound Forum and The Charter For
the Racing Greyhound
2.2.1 The BGRB (and the NGRC) are members
of the "Greyhound Forum". This independent body brings
together all of the major animal welfare charities.
2.2.2 The Forum produced a Charter for the
Racing Greyhound (Appendix 4) [Not printed] listing the basic
rights of greyhounds everywhere. Although the charter goes less
far in some areas than the actual rules of the NGRC it is a valuable
document and testament to the positive relationship with animal
2.2.3 Following a recent recommendation
from the BGRB Welfare Committee, all NGRC racecourses have appointed
a named Welfare Officer. He or she will have the local knowledge
necessary to account for all welfare specific issues from the
track preparation to area rehoming branches.
2.2.4 Society of Greyhound Veterinarians
2.3.1 This is a specialist division of the
British Veterinary Association dedicated to the veterinary care
and welfare of the greyhound before, during and after its racing
career. The BGRB Welfare Committee recommended that an increased
grant was made this year to assist the Society with training and
education projects. A training video is being produced to help
less experienced track vets gain specialist greyhound knowledge.
The SGV is also preparing some major research projects with the
financial help of the BGRB next year, including the optimum way
of transporting greyhounds.
2.3.2 The BGRB acknowledges it is vital
that veterinary expertise accompanies much of the progressive
welfare work underway.
2.3.3 Following recent discussions with
the SGV and its members, the BGRB recently introduced a new industry-wide
policy whereby a track promoter that wishes to continue receiving
grants towards the costs of track vets must agree to contact the
BGRB before any employment contract with a track vet can be terminated.
The SGV was concerned that some vets might feel under pressure
from promoters, for example, to avoid recommending a track as
unraceable during extreme weather conditions. This change will
act as a safeguard and support for the profession. However, the
BGRB was of an opinion that it was, in the main, a question of
perception rather than reality, with the majority of vets and
tracks having a healthy relationship of mutual respect.
2.4 "Retired" Greyhounds
2.4.1 The RGT is long established (1979)
as the only charity which specialises in rehoming ex-racing greyhounds.
There are now more than 60 branches around the country. Many are
based at or near the 31 racecourses but the geographical spread
is far wider than that of the "racing map" alone.
2.4.2 The annual funding to the RGT from
the sport has increased significantly (£240,000 in 2000 to
£850,000 this year.) Budgets for 2005 have not been decided
but an interim substantial increase is being given for this year
and the Director of the RGT has been told that he should not regard
himself as constrained by budgetary factors this year.
2.4.3 Taking into account the projection
of new monies coming into the sport from a new progressive, tiered,
funding agreement with bookmakers in April 2004 (Appendix 5) [Not
printed] the RGT can expect to be receiving a seven-figure grant
from the industry by the end of 2005. In view of this the RGT
trustees, chaired independently by Duncan Green, Chief Executive
of Battersea, are looking at the structure and organisation of
the charity to increase its efficiency and the number of greyhounds
2.4.4 In 2003 the RGT rehomed 2,600 greyhounds.
This figure is often mis-quoted by the anti-racing lobby as the
total number of racing greyhounds rehomed in the UK. Many greyhounds
are rehomed privately by their owners and trainers or through
other welfare groups, such as Battersea and the Blue Cross and
many smaller homes round the country.
2.4.5 Similarly the number of greyhounds
retired from racing but still homed at their racing kennels is
estimated conservatively at around 5,000 by the NGRC. Changes
to the way the greyhounds are monitored on a database should soon
mean that greyhounds can be traced much more easily. The NGRC
encourages owners to take their responsibilities for their dog
seriously and it has recently produced a new owner's pack in conjunction
with the Retired Greyhound Trust.
3. BGRB AND INDEPENDENT
3.1 The BGRB cannot condone not having a
vet in attendance for all races and trials. Its welcomes the Bill
highlighting this gap in the standards at most Independent tracks.
3.2 Providing veterinary coverthe
draft Bill estimates this could cost around £245 per race
nightwill force many Independents out of business. The
BGRB is keen to encourage Independent racecourses to raise their
standards and gain NGRC status. This will mean fulfilling minimum
standards, for example, the provision of proper kennels to house
the greyhound during a race night and this will require significant
capital outlay for Independent tracks.
3.3 The BGRB is proposing to support them
from the NGRC-licensed side of the sport with bridging loans and
hopes that some of the more progressive Independent recourses
will take this opportunity to convert. Some racecourses have converted
to racing under the NGRC rules with great successKinsley
Stadium, West Yorkshire, is the most recent example. Previously,
money has only been available from the British Greyhound Racing
Fund (BGRF) (Appendix 6) [Not printed] once a racecourse has already
obtained the required standards/facilities and a licence from
3.4 Welfare standards at Independent racecourses
vary because they lack a single code of practise or set of regulations;
this is not acceptable. However, some are well run and form an
important part of their local community. This new initiative from
the BGRB will offer them a helping hand to join the NGRC and continue
racing with the funding benefits that step involves, and vitally
the improvement to the welfare of greyhounds too.
In the RIA (Bill Annex H, page 92) it is suggested
that a code of practise could be enforced by local authorities.
It also states that another option would be:
"Consideration is being given
to self-regulation by the NGRC who would also regulate non-NGRC
trackssuch regulation would not affect local authority."
4.1 The BGRB welcomes any option that improves
the standard of welfare for the greyhound at Independent racecourses
and would hope that any code goes as far as the current rules
of the NGRC.
4.2 As to the "policing"of this
Code, the BGRB is concerned that local authority monitoring may
lack the specialised skills and awareness of the NGRC Area Stewards,
and may not be far reaching enough.
4.3 The NGRC area or Stipendiary Stewards
are all chosen for their experience with greyhounds, sometimes
as trainers themselves. Thus self regulation also means that the
industry can both respect and identify with the culture rather
than regarding it as something undesirable imposed from outside.
4.4 The global trend seems to be towards
self-regulation and it is not a new phenomenon. Medieval guilds
practised it and in the more modern era there are many other successful
models such as the Communications Bill and the establishment of
4.5 The BGRB has recognised and embraced
the importance of greater transparency within the sport and to
this end has been developing the use of the Internet to broadcast
committee details and industry news, while the NGRC is also working
with the RGT on the database of greyhounds to improve the traceability
of greyhounds after their racing career is over.
25 August 2004