Far-off the Right Track

Many years ago Compassionate Friend carried an article with gory pictures of a January 1988 three-day greyhound coursing event in Phagwara, Punjab, in which about 175 half-starved greyhound dogs tore apart about 250 rabbits. At the time, numerous letters of protest were sent to the Government by our readers and others.

Repeated representations by Beauty Without Cruelty to the Centre, pointing out that it was unlawful under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Act, 1960, finally resulted in the Punjab State Government imposing a ban in 1988 on the use of live hares being used for greyhound coursing and training for racing in India. But, there was a loop-hole – the ban was brought in force by the Forest Department and there was no mention of rabbits. BWC tried, without success, to get the ban modified to include "all live animals".

Clubs at Phagwara and other places in Punjab continued to organise greyhound coursing where over a 100 pairs of greyhounds participated by chasing, catching and tearing apart hundreds of live rabbits – not hare; others are made to run on muddy tracks in rural areas of the state.


Coursing and Racing


Technically speaking, coursing is a competition or series of competitions between two greyhounds. A live hare is driven into the coursing field (or perhaps let out of a box) and the greyhounds are released to chase after it. There is a judge who awards points to each greyhound according to how well they pursue the hare. The object isn't to kill the hare and in some coursing events (e.g. in Ireland) the greyhounds are muzzled, but in practice the hare is quite often caught and killed in an horrific fashion and is terrified, even if not caught.

Greyhound racing takes place around an oval track and normally involves either six or eight greyhounds. The greyhounds are put into a row of boxes, called traps, and a mechanical hare is set in motion around the inside or outside of the track. When this passes the traps, the doors are released and the greyhounds rush out in pursuit of the "hare". Races can take place over various distances and sometimes include hurdles and the first greyhound to pass the finishing line is the winner.

Although there is a difference between greyhound coursing and racing events, training for both involves small animals being torn apart.

Rabbits are usually used as live-lures, although other small animals such as hare, guinea pigs and cats are also used.

In greyhound coursing, pairs of greyhounds are set loose in an open space to catch and kill rabbits, the rabbits being the live-lures.

Having learnt to do this, remembering the taste of fresh blood, greyhounds graduate to chasing live-lures tied to horizontal poles.

They then participate in greyhound racing events where they are made to run on a race track chasing a mechanical lure in the form of a stuffed rabbit.

The sickening bottom-line is that greyhounds are kept hungry… starved so that instinctively they want to hunt, kill and eat small creatures.


Shocking and Sad


Greyhounds are specially bred and taught to run, and bets placed on their performance. (No different to gambling in horse-racing.) They are not companion dogs, although some are taken on to save them from euthanasia at the end of their short-lived racing careers.

The cruelty behind the scenes is hidden and is generally unknown to the public. However, growing awareness has resulted in a decline in the number of spectators at greyhound events abroad. This is probably the main reason why foreigners who are loosing out financially, are now frantically establishing this so-called sport in countries like India where it is unfortunately becoming a status symbol to own a greyhound or two.

The greyhound blood-sport industry or business consists of greyhound breeders, owners, live-lure animal suppliers, trainers, handlers, veterinarians, track owners and operators, gamblers and spectators. And, since its aim is to make money, animals are considered commodities and made to perform through cruel and unethical means and ways.

It is a life of suffering through and through for the poor greyhounds, beginning from day-one and ending when they retire at 5 or 6 years at the most and are killed. Ears tattooed for identification at three months, they are continuously starved – kept alive at half their normal bodyweight – and housed in cages barely as big as themselves and taken out only to defecate and race of course. Their bloodlust is awakened by keeping rabbits in cages alongside their cages. There is no respect at all for life – not for greyhounds, not for rabbits. Greyhounds that are unprofitable (weak, sick, injured, or old), and if too many are born in a litter, are simply abandoned (older dogs have been found with their ears cut-off in order to hide their identity so that their owners can not be traced), killed or sold off to a laboratory for testing upon, or for research.

Even the lives of the few that win races – with the glory disgustingly going to the humans – are full of misery because these racing dogs are at all times kept hungry and muzzled in their small cages. They are frequently transported long distances, even across the world, to participate in events – some times night events. Last but not least, accidents on racing tracks are common because they are pushed to run fast and faster with misuse of drugs. Thousands of injuries, many of them serious, occur every year. This is mainly because the shape of the tracks, fast straights leading into tight bends, creates a dangerous environment for dogs to run in. It is dirty to the core, and can not be rightly called a game or a sport.

In countries, such as the USA and the UK, Ireland and Australia, where greyhound racing industries have been allowed to develop, many thousands of greyhounds are put to death annually, when no longer required for racing.

Greyhound Racing in Punjab


India allowed the import of greyhounds that were either already trained, or for breeding and training. They came in from USA, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Pakistan, and other countries, to participate in races held in Punjab and left after doing so.

Two or three-day events are held in villages on the outskirts of cities and as many as 120-150 greyhounds participate. The events were initially started in the Malwa belt (during traditional fairs) but are spreading to the Doaba region. Some of the places where these races held are in or on the outskirts of Bhatinda, Muktsar, Jalandhar, Ropar, Ludhiana, Moga, Kotli, Kila Raipur and Phagwara. Winners are known to brag of gaining eminence in the Punjabi community.

In 2005 the Outlook publication carried a cover story entitled “Hounds, Hares and Punjab’s Neo-Nawabs” which said it all: that the rich farmers around the villages of the Shivalik foothills or the Mand areas near the Beas river did not need a rifle to shoot because their greyhounds, costing any thing between 2 and 25 lakh rupees, did the hunting. In fact, hunting of hare (and wild boar) was considered a form of entertainment in rural Punjab. Shikaris revealed that flusher dogs like Pointers and Spaniels located the hare in the bushes and when they began to run the greyhounds were let loose on their chase. Greyhounds were also taught, in preparation of racing, to chase a wire wound on a wheel at the other end of which was a dummy hare.

As mentioned, the training of these greyhounds involves keeping them hungry enough to chase and kill live animals such as rabbits which they tare apart. Only if they have tasted blood, will they be inclined to run on a race track following a mechanical-lure rabbit. This is clearly admitted in the article “Modern Greyhound Racing and Hunting in Punjab – Overview” by Greyhound Club of Punjab which can be read at www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=150292335027087 As soon as BWC came across this article, the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests’ Secretary, Deputy Inspector General of Forests and the Additional Director, Wild Life Crime Bureau, were requested to take immediate action. Earlier, in March 2011, the Punjab Wildlife Department wrote to BWC that they had issued a directive to prevent live hare from being used to train or during racing of greyhounds.

In December 2010, newspaper reports stated that near Jodhpur Romana of Bhatinda, and at other places in Punjab like Moga, greyhound racing events were regularly organised. The greyhounds that participated were imported and people had begun demanding that the State Government of Punjab should set up racing and betting on the lines of events abroad.

Beauty Without Cruelty immediately wrote to the Chief Minister of Punjab and requested him to put a complete stop to greyhound racing before it is too late. Officials of the Animal Husbandry Department of the state were approached as well. Letters were also sent to the President of India, Prime Minister, Union Minister of Agriculture, Union Minister of State for Environment & Forests, Members of Parliament and others, asking them to put a halt to greyhound events in Punjab. It was pointed out that greyhound racing is considered a cruel sport and is banned in 43 of 50 states of USA, with growing opposition in other countries.

BWC has been informed that forests are being cut down for development in Punjab. This means there is less land available, reason enough for racecourses not to be built.

In January 2011 BWC-India launched a Petition to Stop Greyhound Racing in India which received an excellent response. Click here to read it. Four months later, we asked CAPE-India (based in Punjab) to actively join us in the campaign. On July 19, 2011, CAPE–India handed over the Petition on behalf of 4,269,772 persons (print-out of on-line plus filled forms) to the Chief Minister of Punjab.

Despite such overwhelming support, we were very disappointed to learn via a news item that plans were afoot to set up a dog racing track on the outskirts of Ludhiana. Although time is running out, we are trying our level best by approaching central and state government officials and politicians so that greyhound racing is not legalised in Punjab.

Simply stopping this track from materialising is not all we desire. We do not want greyhound/dog racing to be legalised. BWC–India and CAPE–India therefore raised the ante. Appeals in writing and in person, pointing out the animal cruelty and harm to society in legalising gambling, have been made to many more politicians and bureaucrats.

Gambling on greyhounds is illegal in the majority of US states as well as the US territory of Guam. Countries such as Jamaica and, recently, South Africa have refused to introduce it. It is hoped that India will follow suit.

In August 2011 GREY2K USA, also launched a petition, at www.grey2kusa.org/eNEWS/G2K-081011.html, which generates appeals to the Prime Minister of India to prevent commercial dog racing.

GREY2K USA, the world’s leading organisation for greyhounds, was the first to back our efforts to help us spread the word, and to garner support. Also Action for Greyhounds, UK, supported our campaign from the beginning.

Later, FIAPO–India jumped into the fray, issuing a joint press release in which the Dogs Trust, UK, also condemned greyhound racing. We continue to receive support from various organisations, namely Greyhound Crusaders/South-West Animal Protection Team, UK, and BWC–South Africa.

In January 2012 SWAP informed us that the Irish Greyhound Board was eying China and India, following which we again wrote to the Government of India to impose an immediate ban on the import and export of greyhounds. There is no doubt that closure of tracks and lack of support in the West, particularly in America, has been one of the main reasons for greyhound racing being popularised in Punjab.


Political Resistance


Meanwhile, BWC–India and CAPE–India kept receiving half-hearted responses from the Government of Punjab who were reluctant to issue clear-cut directions to and from their Animal Husbandry department.

In December 2012 following our continuous personal requests to umpteen politicians, bureaucrats and others, who in turn put pressure on the Chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India, proper support was received. It is good that the AWBI eventually realised the serious consequences for animals, and themselves, if greyhound racing continued or was legalised because enormous animal welfare needs were on the rise, particularly for those organisations that worked for the welfare of dogs. The AWBI Chairman’s letter to the Director Animal Husbandry, Punjab, and reply can be read here.

We were happy that Punjab had agreed in writing to halt greyhound racing at the district livestock championships, and we had hoped it would be implemented every where in the state as well so BWC–India and CAPE–India again jointly wrote to both the Director Animal Husbandry, and the Director General of Police, Punjab to ensure that greyhound races are never conducted. Even before a reply was forthcoming, it came to light that in November 2012 three greyhounds and one bully kutta were brought into India on the Lahore-Amritsar bus.


In December 2012, ten districts were sent a memo by Animal Husbandry Department saying that they should not conduct dog race competitions during livestock fairs in violation of the Prevention of Cruelty of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. This was challenged by the Grey Hound Racing Board vide a write petition in the High Court. The court order resulted in the constitution of committees and welfare measures and for permission to be taken from the Director, Animal Husbandry. Unfortunately, the Animal Husbandry Department’s will to oppose greyhound racing did not seem to be strong enough despite receiving guidance from the Animal Welfare Board of India.


Following different breeds of dogs being brought illegally into the country, in April 2013 the Government of India changed its policy regarding import: only those persons who had stayed abroad continuously for two years could bring in two pets as baggage. This should now curb greyhounds and bully kuttas from being brought into the country.

In May 2013 we were shocked to suddenly know that the Punjab government had given its nod for a draft bill seeking to legalise betting on horse racing and to build a race course for horses and another track for dog racing. The news item claimed that nearly 1,000 unofficial greyhound races were held in Punjab every year.

Greyhound races were illegally conducted at the 78th Kila Raipur Sports Festival in January 2014 despite all efforts to stop them from being held. That this happened even without the mandatory permission from the Animal Husbandry Department’s indicates that there is a strong political backing even though races had been cancelled at the Muktsar livestock show in 2013 since permission was not granted.

Meanwhile, BWC–India and CAPE–India efforts to halt greyhound racing continue.


Dog Races Cancelled in Maharashtra


In September 2013, BWC came across a poster inviting participation in dog races to be held at the Mohite-Patil Mahavidyalay at Malewadi, Akluj. Thankfully, the Police Commissioner, and the Collector, both of Sholapur District of Maharashtra, approached by BWC, cancelled the event.


The four categories of dogs scheduled to run were: greyhounds, cross-greyhounds, Pashmi Karwan (a sight hound breed used for hunting by tribes), and dogs under 1 year. BWC pointed out to the authorities that the dogs can only be trained with the use of small live animals such as rabbits and cats which they are made to chase and tare apart. Only if they are starved will they run and catch small creatures, and only if they have tasted fresh blood, will they, when kept hungry, run on a race track following a mechanical rabbit. Moreover, dog racing was a form of gambling/betting, a vice which should not be encouraged. And lastly that this event would probably attract not only the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, but also other laws which cover racing and gambling in Maharashtra.


Please join the BWC campaign against greyhound coursing and racing in India and if you get to know of any event please inform us immediately.
Page last updated on 18/02/14