Greyhound welfare Contents

2Data and transparency

Transparency

26.During this inquiry we have found no sources of reliable data regarding greyhound welfare in the public domain. Much of the relevant data required to judge welfare standards is collected by the industry but not shared. This has two significant consequences for both this inquiry and the sport at large. First, it is difficult to accurately assess the current level of welfare provision or to gauge improvements or deteriorations over time. Secondly, the absence of welfare data raises the suspicions of critics and sustains their negative assumptions. We note that the industry fears the data could be selectively used to discredit the industry.

Injury and euthanasia data

27.The main demand for access to data focuses on information relating to injuries, anti-doping activities, euthanasia and rehoming. The 2010 Regulations made it mandatory for all tracks to keep records of greyhounds injured racing. They did not stipulate that the injury records be published, but we believe that was the clear intention of introducing the need to keep them. We are concerned that although collection of injury data has been mandatory for five years there has been no move to put it to greater use.

28.Amongst stakeholders in the sport there is a clear demand for greater transparency:

29.In response, the industry expressed concerns that full disclosure would lead to the data being used against it by critics and those that wish to see an end to the sport, acting as a: “cudgel for our head”22

30.The GBGB has stated that it is prepared to share with “responsible organisations”.23 However, the argument that injury data should not be made publicly available as it would lend weight to organisations that seek to ban racing is not conclusive. If the statistics reflect a healthy welfare situation, there should be no public outcry in response to their publication.

31.We accept that some information may need to be published in an anonymised or aggregated format on the grounds of commercial sensitivities. Injury data is currently recorded by track veterinarians and collated by the industry. We believe that in order to underwrite the transparent and open behaviour that stakeholders are requesting there is a case for this data to be independently verified. This would go a long way to eliminate the concerns that some parties hold and support continued self-regulation of the sport.

32.We are concerned and surprised that the industry has decided not to publish injury statistics after the 2010 Regulations made their collection mandatory. Data collection was introduced to identify the scale of injuries sustained racing but also to provide a source of information that could be analysed to support prevention in the future. The industry’s reluctance to go beyond the letter of what was required by the regulations in this respect does not inspire confidence in its ability to self-regulate.

Drawing comparisons

33.With regard to using data and its potential for improving welfare, useful lessons can be taken from horseracing. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is recognised around the world as having implemented a high standard in equine care. In a contrasting approach to that taken by the greyhound industry, injury data for horseracing is made publicly available.

34.Over the last 15 years, the equine fatality rate in British Racing has fallen by a third.24 The reduction has been achieved, in part, through the electronic collection of injury data and post-race analysis. This data is widely shared with epidemiological specialists who look at tracks or jumps linked with high incidences of injury and proactively recommend remedial action based on the analysis.

35.We believe this is a very positive example of self-regulation supporting high welfare standards and hope it can be emulated within greyhound racing. On this point we welcome the recent appointment by GBGB of Peter Webbon as Chairman of the Welfare Committee, who was previously CEO of the BHA.

Current data

36.Injury data is currently collected by tracks and owned by the Racecourse Promoters Association who report this information to the GBGB Welfare Committee and Greyhound Forum (twice a year).25 For some people the death of even one greyhound resulting from racing is too many, but we recognise that any animal under human control is vulnerable to this fate.

37.Our focus is the scale of injuries and whether all reasonable efforts are being made to avoid preventable deaths. After prolonged conversations the industry has provided the statistics below on injuries and euthanasia.

Table 1: Injury and euthanasia data from GBGB tracks

Reported
Numbers

2012

2013

2014

% of all raced dogs

Number of raced dogs

% of all raced dogs

Number of raced dogs

% of all raced dogs

Number of raced dogs

Euthanasia

0.12

441

0.13

461

0.13

393

Hock & Wrist injuries

0.19

687

0.19

643

0.21

693

Source: Racecourse Promoters Association

38.The category of ‘Hock and Wrist Injuries’ refers to the most serious and common types of injuries. This category of injury is what the Racecourse Promoter Association records and reports as injury figures to wider stakeholders. The above data is not comprehensive as it is taken from 22 of 24 GBGB-licensed tracks, it does not cover all types of injuries, and it does not include injuries to dogs that manifest later away from the track.

39.We include these figures to encourage the industry to release welfare figures more widely. They are significantly lower and less concerning than the suggested figures welfare groups provided to us. Analysis provided by the welfare organisation Greyt Exploitations, in association with the Sunday Times, of incidents at races over a 10 year period reported that 40,151 dogs were injured and 18,410 did not race again. 26

40.GBGB told us it is developing a new centralised database for injury data, to be rolled out during 2016–17. The move to a centralised electronic system will provide a possible source of raw data for sports science and epidemiological studies proposed by many of our witnesses.

41.The development of a centralised database is welcome but should have happened earlier. It will need to be operated in an open and transparent fashion to rebuild trust between the industry and interest groups. Independent validation of injury data would go some way to alleviating the current climate of distrust.

42.There is concern within the industry that the data may be misused. However, the horseracing industry publishes its injury data, and there seems little reason why the greyhound industry should be more at risk of misrepresentation of its data, and unable to refute inaccurate misuse of that data. As one of our witnesses, Dr Hazel Bentall, an independent veterinary surgeon put it: “At no cost to the industry, it could be made available for independent epidemiological research by specialist researchers—not particularly by welfare organisations, but by people whose whole job is looking at anonymised data and drawing conclusions from it. Horseracing has been shown that it can be done and it can be done safely.” 27

43.We support the view that the data should be made available for independent research so that any specific injury risk arising from particular tracks or any other identifiable reason may be accurately assessed and dealt with.

44.We recommend that Defra amend the 2010 Regulations to require the publication of essential welfare data relating to injury, euthanasia and rehoming numbers.



18 Q 69 [Dr. Bentall], Q 83 [Dr. Adams]

19 Retired Greyhound Trust (GHW 56) para 4.4.

20 Greyhound Trainers Association (GHW 69), Stanley Wright (GHW 03) and Miss Maureen Day (GHW 14)

21 League Against Cruel Sports (GHW 09), Greyt Exploitations (GHW 68), para 1.2 and Greyhound Awareness Welfare and Protection UK (GHW 64).

22 Q 148 [Mr Faulkner], Q 150 [Mr Curran]

23 Greyhound Board Of Great Britain (GHW 55) para 3.12

24 British Horseracing Authority (GHW 59) para 3.2

25 Q 144 [Mr Curran]

27 Q 69 [Dr. Hazel Bentall]




© Parliamentary copyright 2015

Prepared 22 February 2016