Half of all Irish Greyhound Board sponsorship funds will now be ringfenced for a ‘care fund’ established for the wellbeing of greyhounds. This follows a review of practices after an RTÉ documentary spotlighted major animal welfare issues recently.
Ger Dollard, IGB chief executive, said: “We have launched an arrangement where 50% of all sponsorship goes into the care fund. The reaction of some of our major sponsors has been very positive as not only can they sponsor racing but they can sponsor it with wellbeing and care in mind.
“Sponsors have been challenged — there have been organised campaigns on social media and they have had to respond. When things settle down, and people can see the impact on the care and wellbeing side of things, the rationale should be that ‘by being part of greyhound racing as a sponsor, I am helping with care and wellbeing’, ” he said.
However, critics of the greyhound industry in Ireland say they will continue to protest “until there is no greyhound industry”.
The Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel Sports (CACS) said that “no reforms” will address the central issues and that “abolition remains the only viable option”.
CACS spokesman, John Fitzgerald, called for the phasing out of the Irish greyhound industry in the wake of the findings of the RTÉ Investigates documentary broadcast in June.
He rejected the suggestion that a series of reforms introduced by the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) will lead to better welfare and care for greyhounds, and said that the issues in the industry are endemic.
Protests at greyhound meets have escalated since the broadcast of the programme and Mr Dollard said he “fully accepts” that these will continue:
There is a group of people who are anti-greyhound racing and that is not a problem. The pickets have been peaceful and there has been no issue getting access to Curraheen.
“Shelbourne Park is a little more complicated as the entrance is on to the main public road but we have done our best to accommodate them and to ensure that people can go about their business in a peaceful way. What may have been lost in the protests is that greyhound racing is a national sport.
“Everyone is entitled to take part in that and to mark it in a peaceful way. It is about respect: we are happy to respect the right of people to protest too.”
Mr Dollard said the IGB is still assessing the full cost of the RTÉ documentary. He said that they have “no confirmation” that their €16.8m per year government funding is under threat and added that pulling this would have significant ramifications.
An economic report commissioned by IGB in 2017 indicates that more than 12,000 people per year benefit from the industry. He also said that the financial ramifications for the IGB have been minimal, despite the loss of three major sponsors.
Barry’s Tea, which was a sponsor of an annual race in Curraheen, described itself as “saddened and horrified by the recent revelations” of the programme. “On reflection, we have decided to withdraw our local sponsorship of the annual race in Curraheen Park, Cork,” it added in a statement.
FBD Insurance, which had a sponsorship agreement with Kilkenny Greyhound Stadium, also posted a statement online, calling for “urgently needed” reforms in the industry.
Treacy’s Hotel in Waterford also pulled its sponsorship of events. In a statement, the hotel said, “We hope with this action and other businesses pulling sponsorship, will help stop the unjust cruelty and this sport will become humane and just.”
In early July, Connolly’s Red Mills became the latest company to cease its sponsorship of greyhound racing. The animal feed producer said it was “horrified by the completely unacceptable acts that were broadcast” and added that “no-one who cares about animals can condone the practises depicted in the broadcast”.
However, the company has since done a U-turn and has recommitted to supporting greyhound racing. But, Mr Dollard said, this was done on the basis that its contributions would be ringfenced for the care fund.