Fears Ireland will become major source of greyhounds for controversial Macau track
At least nine Irish greyhounds have been exported to race on a controversial track in the Chinese city of Macau, where underperforming dogs are routinely killed, according to animals rights activists.
The Australian racing industry recently banned greyhound exports to the former Portuguese colony over concerns about conditions at the Yat Yuen Canidrome, China’s only legal track.
An investigation by ABC last year revealed that up to 30 Australian greyhounds were being shipped to Macau every month to replace euthanised dogs, and kept in “prison-like” cells.
Australia’s racing industry has also banned greyhound exports to Macau, but there are fears now that dogs from Ireland will be used to plug the gap.
At least two shipments of Irish greyhounds have made it over to the Chinese city in recent months, while another group of dogs were prevented from flying out just two weeks ago, animals rights activists have said.
In the most recent incident, 24 Irish-owned greyhounds were stopped from flying out of Heathrow Airport because their crates fell below airline standards.
While two international airlines now refuse to fly racing dogs to Asia, some activists have accused German air carrier Lufthansa of “shipping greyhounds to their death” by continuing to transport those destined for the Canidrome.
However, the airline today dismissed calls for it to stop facilitating greyhound exports.
A spokesperson for Lufthansa told Newstalk.com: “We understand that it is the desire of certain activists that 'racing greyhounds' cannot be transported from breeders in Ireland to Macau.
“Thus, these parties asked us to reject any 'racing greyhound' transport. However, for cargo airlines in general it is impossible to provide any binding determination or take responsibility for the purpose for which animals are making their journey, especially when the consignee at the end of the transport chain is unknown.
“This means that cargo airlines in general are not able to distinguish a greyhound shipped to a 'good' dog owner from a greyhound shipped to a 'bad' dog owner.
“We would have to discriminate against all greyhounds owners worldwide. Only laws and international regulations set a binding framework for all cargo companies – and only the responsible authorities can revoke the license for the race track.”
Activists, too, say only legislative change will prevent greyhounds being exported to countries with less stringent welfare regulations than Ireland.
“In Macau, the default position is that a dog is put to sleep if it becomes injured,” Mark Beazley of the Dogs Trust told Newstalk.com.
Under current laws, little can be done to stop private owners exporting their dogs to Macau if they comply with welfare certification requirements, he said.
The charity issued a joint statement with industry representatives earlier this month that noted the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB) has no control of events outside Ireland and “emphatically does not support” dog exports to destinations with weaker regulations.
The groups said they were "actively exploring all avenues to ensure the export of greyhounds takes place only to jurisdictions with high welfare standards".
The IGB, which oversees the greyhound industry, has also advised all owners involved in the exports to “only export to destinations that provide the expected levels of care and management” outlined in its code of practice.
The Canidrome did not respond to requests for comments.