A Publication of
THE CATHOLIC STUDY CIRCLE
FOR ANIMAL WELFARE
From The Ark Number 183 Autumn 1999THE GREYHOUNDS OF SPAIN
Anne Finch runs Greyhounds in Need,
rescuing many of these
gentle yet grossly exploited dogs throughout the world.
By Anne Finch
I am a newcomer to your study circle for animal welfare and am very touched by the concern and work which is being done worldwide by people who believe that crimes against creation in the animal kingdom and against nature should be of serious concern to Christians and diminish us as human beings, supposedly created in the image of God. It behoves us to oppose and struggle against exploitation and evil practices against the innocent, in the name of Christ and all that is good.
It is this which in 1989 drove me in the first instance when I first came across a beautiful fawn greyhound bitch with white spots, like a deer, who had spent nine years in a cold concrete rescue kennel in this country, and had become, through emotional and spiritual neglect, totally cold, unfeeling, distant and with vacant unseeing eyes - a picture of classic clinical depression. I took her for walks regularly. Never once did she see me or respond - the despair was so deep. I persevered, determined not to abandon or give up on her, with no response. One day I learned she was found dead in her kennel in the morning, having finally given up the ghost alone.
Irish dogs exported
I learned then more and more about the lives of greyhounds born in Ireland; turned out to run free and fend for themselves as puppies; brought to the sales in Ireland at 18 months and sold to racing owners; most are then exported on gruelling lorry journeys to Britain, Spain, Morocco, Italy , or sent to Pakistan, Turkey, Macao and Saudi Arabia. They race for two years or so at dog tracks and then, when they become too injured from the tight bends of unsuitable tracks, become unwanted at the age of four, and with a natural ten more years to live, suffer the fate and neglect of any other unwanted dog of that country. We are talking about vast numbers. Ireland breeds 14,000 20,000 greyhounds every year. The UK breeds 5,000 7,000 per year. These enter an industry to replace the same number who are unwanted. Thousands of beautifully bred, gentle greyhounds are euthanased. Many suffer worse fates.
In 1991 I could bear no more to hear of the suffering of the Irish greyhounds in Spain so I went there secretly to investigate for myself what was happening. I went to Mallorca and saw 250 greyhounds in shacks, lying on the hard floor, tied to a wall, or cramped in metre square cages. Later in the evening I saw them racing. Many dogs were pink, their skin excoriated with parasitic disease, and many limped to the traps before the race even started. One I saw slumped in her racing kennel unable to stand up before the race, her wrists in bandages and her eyes red with exhaustion and disease. I bought her for £200 along with three others and flew them to England. My reports shocked the World Greyhound Racing Federation who sent two inspectors to Mallorca. The kennels were deemed a disgrace and closed down.
Later I went to Barcelona where there were 1,000 Irish greyhounds crammed in cages in awful heat, in sheds next to a cemetery, and to Valencia where 450 more Irish bitches eked out their miserable lives in more cages in a dilapidated ruin next to another cemetery.
I campaigned politically; visited regularly; worked alongside the trainers there; removed as many dogs as possible to Northern Europe and took out medicines and veterinary equipment, and produced a 2- hour video in Spanish in seven chapters on the Care of the Racing Greyhound.
I had heard rumours about the plight of Spains own greyhounds , the galgos, and really didnt want to believe what I next saw on a video in Granada in 1995 the hanging of greyhounds from olive trees at the end of the hunting season. Researching these practices elsewhere was not successful until in April 1997, on Spanish T.V., Fernan Perez of Scooby Association appeared with a gruesome film of hanged, horribly tortured, impaled and marooned greyhounds in the pine groves of Medina del Campo, Castilla y Leon. I made contact and came to know this remarkable man, a teacher, who works for animals during the rest of his time and whose impressive vision, energy, intelligence and love of animals is truly outstanding.
Galgos, especially in his area, suffer terribly at the end of the hunting season each year in January as the galgueros (hunters) do not want to keep their dogs the nine months up until the beginning of the next coursing/hunting season. Hence they are traditionally slaughtered in this way, a silent violence, in the countryside. On one visit I saw 40 carcasses in one afternoon round the small area of Medina.
It is a tradition which may stem from the noblemens practice in the past of displaying hanged and tortured greyhounds publicly, to be seen by the peasants as an example of what will happen to them if they step out of line. Many are half-hanged, so they can hold themselves up on their back legs for days before they finally weaken from hunger and thirst, and fall into the noose. We are talking about thousands of galgos up and down the inland areas of Spain. I believe it is barbarism, largely unknown until recently, which rivals the maltreatment of bulls in Spain and it has been one of Spains hideous secrets until now.
Some changes achieved
Our work in publicising these crimes, and infiltrating the greyhound racing world, have wrought some changes in the last year but maybe only in selected areas. Whereas in 1997 Fermin had only one or two galgos in his refuge, this year he has collected 300 already since January. Last year our organisation, now a registered charity called Greyhounds in Need, transported greyhounds from Spain to homes in the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Holland. The work of liaising with these countries is enormous and growing daily. Altogether over the last two years we have transported nearly 400 greyhounds to the safety of loving dog homes. In addition we have donated equipment for Fermins refuge (a hired warehouse without electricity or water) and medical equipment for their headquarters and a veterinary surgery and operating theatre. All dogs are vaccinated, sterilised, microchipped and blood tested before export.
In a sense we are suffering from our own success. Femins work for the country galgos means he has 300 galgos in a space for 75. Our work for the Irish greyhounds has finally contributed to the closure of Mallorca, Valencia and Pabellon tracks rendering many hundreds of unwanted lovely greyhounds needing relocating. Altogether we have moved 600 to Northern Europe mostly in the last two years. Fifty-nine greyhounds are currently in quarantine in the UK looking for homes at the end of their term there.
We struggle with financial burdens and the enormous volume of written work which is required daily to keep the charity afloat. I work full time as a nurse and must use the night time hours for this work and am learning to do without sleep, though this is dangerous at times when the emotional aspects of this work loom too large to bear.
Readers wishing to learn more about the gentle, meek, dare I say, divine characteristics of a greyhound and keeping one as a pet may be interested to read a little book I wrote for Ringpress publications, The Pet Owners Guide to the Greyhound. A further 17,000 word chapter on the subject will appear in a forthcoming book by the same publishers The Ultimate Greyhound.
Correspondence to: Mrs A Finch, 5 Greenways, Egham, Surrey TW20 9PA, UK
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