Argentina has banned greyhound racing, or carreras de galgos, with a new bill that was able to achieve relative unity in the deeply divided country’s Congress.
On Thursday, Argentina’s lower house voted 132-17 to approve the bill which will put an end to greyhound racing in the country. The measure found near-universal support in the governing Let’s Change coalition and two of the three major Peronist parties, with nearly all “no” votes coming from the Front for Victory (FpV), the Peronist party formed by ex-president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her deceased husband, Nestor. Violators will face up to four years in prison and fines of up to 80,000 Argentine pesos (US$5,100).
Yet some members of the lower house felt that the greyhound racing ban was unfairly characterized as an animal rights bill. One representative of the left-leaning opposition FpV, Diana Conti, went as far to say that the measure was “unconstitutional” and “fascist,” claiming that it unfairly rooted out an entire “microeconomy” while the country faces rising unemployment, reported local daily La Nación.
“The debate has created a false paradox [that consists of saying those who voted ‘no’] do not love animals, and that’s not true… the banning of greyhound racing is not what’s being voted on here, but rather the prohibition of people to trying to find an honest job through this activity… Well, I’m voting ‘no’, whether or not they lynch me in the street.”
— Opy (@OpyMorales) November 17, 2016
The greyhound rights group, Proyecto Galgo Argentina, has been one of the most vocal proponents of banning the industry. On their website, the organization condemned the use of the animals as “objects” that existed solely for the benefit of their owner’s enrichment. Specifically, they pointed to the use of drugs meant to keep the animals in heat to encourage the breeding process, as well as painkillers that push them well beyond the limits of their own bodies.
“The training is done without any kind of veterinary supervision. The dogs are subjected to a great physical demand that can end their lives. Animals other than greyhounds are also involved in the ‘sport’ of racing. Rabbits, chickens and cats are used as live bait to motivate the greyhounds to run faster… Sometimes, the feet of the bait animals are broken so that their screams of pain excite the dogs.”
— Nightowl400 (@Nightowl400) November 8, 2016
One story, in particular, stood out during the hours of debate over what would become of the sport. Adriana Nazario of the United for a New Alternative (UNA) political coalition told the story of two greyhounds that she herself had adopted and nursed back to health after they became too weak to race.
“When we found Rosita, she was dying of thirst. They had left her because she couldn’t run anymore, because she was broken. It took six months to nurse her back to health, and she was able to live for one more year before she died from cancer. [The veterinarians] explained that it was because of the performance-enhancing drugs they have given her.”
The decision will have widespread influence throughout Argentina as the races are quite common, with some areas, such as Mendoza, hosting the competitions every weekend. Clarin estimates that there are around 60 racetracks which host the greyhound races just in the province of Buenos Aires.
— BGreyhoundProtection (@BGPuk) November 17, 2016
Globally, the racing of greyhounds has seen a steady decline over the past two decades. While that decrease is partially due to the form of entertainment falling out of style, it has been most curbed at the request of animal rights groups who have campaigned tirelessly to have the practice ended. As mentioned by the greyhound advocacy group above, much of the outcry has been over the drugging of the animals, as well as the use of live baiting techniques.
In the United States, greyhound racing is only practiced legally in six states: Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Florida, and West Virginia. In four others — Oregon, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Connecticut — it is not formally banned but not generally practiced either. In Texas, the practice largely disappeared after becoming unprofitable, but the sport made a comeback in 2016 to the horror of animal rights groups.
Should greyhound racing be banned across the board, or is it possible to do it ethically?
[Image via Brook Mitchell/Getty Images]