Agriculture Minister committed to funding greyhound racing

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns has criticised the level of funding given to greyhound racing each year, claiming it is a 'dying industry'
Agriculture Minister committed to funding greyhound racing

Charlie McConalogue said the greyhound raising industry, which received €19.2m in taxpayer funds this year, is an important sector for rural Ireland. File picture Denis Minihane

The Agriculture Minister is fully committed to publicly subsidising the greyhound sector despite mounting opposition to the sport.

Charlie McConalogue said the greyhound racing industry, which received €19.2m in taxpayer funds this year, is an important sector for rural Ireland.

However, Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns accused the Government of "shielding the industry from commercial realities", adding that "blindly funding" the sport which is dwindling in popularity is "reckless".

"The reality is that it is a dying industry," she said.

Ms Cairns, whose party has opposed increasing funding to the sector, said the industry received about €280m in taxpayer funding since 2000. This is despite the fact turnover from racing activities steadily declined from €32.9m in 2010 to €22.7m in 2017.

6,000 dogs a year culled

She said 6,000 dogs a year are culled because they are not fast enough to race.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr McConalogue indicated his commitment to the sport and said the annual State funding is important to the sector.

I think it's an important sector right across the country. It's a small industry but an important one at the same time and important to rural Ireland.

"I've made the funding conditional, as well, on ensuring that welfare measures are enhanced and the welfare programme which the greyhound board has adopted is followed through on," he said.

Asked if he believed that in years to come, greyhound racing would be seen like fur farming is today, Mr McConalogue said the two industries could not be be compared in that manner.

"Greyhounds are bred to race; they are racing dogs and are treated very well by their owners and racing as part of what they do.

"It's a very different comparison to fur farming where they are wild, semi-aquatic animals but kept in an environment which is alien to what they would be like in the wild," he said.

Mr McConalogue added: "It's an industry in which obviously welfare has to be central and has to be consistent right across the board, but one which is important throughout Ireland, in which the public funding is really important to sustaining as well and I would support it for that reason."

Strong lobbying

Responding, Ms Cairns claimed strong lobbying from the sector has influenced the State funding allocation over the years.

She said: "It really bothers me that people say that greyhound racing is the lifeblood of rural Ireland. There are only tracks in more built-up parts of rural Ireland. They're not in small towns and villages or rural areas, they are in the bigger towns.

"Just because people are from a rural area, it doesn't mean that they don't understand the financial basket case that is the greyhound racing industry too," she said.

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