Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Racing Into the Light

One of the new things in the greyhound world is a documentary, by Bill Buchanan,  being created on the history of greyhounds and the inner workings of the racing industry.

When I watched the original version of this trailer I was concerned that this documentary was going to end up being fairly one sided against the racing industry.  It started out with footage that showed the majestic appeal of the hounds thundering around the track, followed by interviews with people in the industry explaining their positions and the issues they see.  It then progressed to show dogs wiping out during the race and a dog with an amputated leg which was no doubt the result of a bad break.  It then ended with some hard emotional slams against the industry via interviews with Grey2K affiliates.  At least that was my perception.  My concern was that a documentary which works specifically to demonize the industry could cause a setback in the positive reforms that have occurred in racing and damage the relationships between the industry and adoption groups.

I have watched this video and revised versions of it quite a few times since then and the more I watch it the more I believe it is going to be a fair and balanced accounting of the racing and adoption world and some problems that exist within it.

  1. It gives credence to the history of the greyhound and its athleticism and its desire to run.
  2. It allows the racing industry to speak.  It shows that the hounds can not be forced to run and must be well cared for in order to compete.  
  3. It shows greyhounds in their track environments including the crates, newspaper bedding, and muzzles at turnout and that they appear healthy from birth to track. I don't get any negative impression off of the footage of the dog farm.
  4. It shows that wipe outs and injuries do indeed happen and states an area of possible improvement which is improving the condition of the track surface.  When it does show the dramatic wipe out it does not end the clip leaving you to assume the dog died.  It shows the dog getting up and trotting off the track.
  5. It shows the animosity between the greyhound breeders and trainers and the anti-racing groups.
  6. It shows the anti-racing community stating the purpose of their cause and speaking to their concerns about the risk of injury to the dogs and their views about the types of injuries sustained.
  7. It shows the anti-racing community stating their affection for the dogs and their view that they are not objects but living breathing beings that deserve respect and decency.
  8. It ends with footage of greyhounds as pets in happy homes.

If I were to try to create a picture of the racing landscape as I have perceive it to be, I don't think I would have done it any differently (except of course I wouldn't have had the excellent cinematography and dramatic music and the spelling on the subtitles would have been in error).

From what I have seen of reviews of this clip in online communities, it appears that the extremists are still extreme and no doubt Mr Buchanan is exhausted and exasperated from reading and responding to email regarding his intentions.  I was curious how people, who have little to do with greyhounds, felt about this trailer and so I asked two.  Note that these are not Mr Buchanan's judgments but are the judgments that the people took away from the information presented in the clip.

The first is a good friend of mine and someone who is an animal rights advocate by nature and practice.  She was suspicious of the motives, felt it was overall pro racing but felt she could see that attempt was made to be objective.  She was moderately reassured that the documentary would be authentic by Mr Buchanans past documentary ( Companions to None) on dog population and abuse issues in Mexico. She could not (much to my amusement) watch the clip beyond the dog wiping out and so probably will not be viewing the documentary in its finished state.

The second person I asked, also a good friend, is a sales person, father of two, and pet owner.  He was able to bring himself  to watch the whole clip (note the sarcasm) and felt that it wasn't communicating a fundamental problem with racing, but that higher track standards are needed.

In conclusion I would say that since the extremists (as I've seen online) are critical of this project, that is probably a very good indication that it is doing its job well.  I believe I have come to support this project both in the blogosphere and soon via a financial contribution and I hope you consider doing so as well.  I think this documentary could be a wonderful thing for greyhounds and greyhound adoption.


Kristin G. said...

I look forward to seeing more on this. Thanks for sharing your insight.

houndstooth said...

I agree with you on pretty much all the points! I've seen a lot of people up in arms about it, which I find odd considering they haven't even seen the whole thing. I'm looking forward to it coming out and I hope he does well with it.

I wouldn't say that I'm pro or anti racing, but I am DEEPLY distrustful of Grey2K and I don't believe they have Greyhound interests at heart at all. If they said the sky was blue, I'd walk outside to look for myself. None of their money goes to help the dogs, it goes to pay their salaries. When tracks close, they are nowhere to be seen when dogs need to be placed. I feel like, if you're opposed to racing, that's okay, but support an adoption group that's of like mind and help the dogs instead of giving it away to people. *sigh* Sadly, the worst cases of Greyhound abuse that I've seen have had nothing to do with racing. They were cases where people had the dogs in their care and horribly neglected them, or coyote dogs, which I find it odd that people rarely talk about.

jcp said...

Thanks for the comments. I hear you on Grey2K. I can't speak to their specific motives but I think investing time and energy in adoption programs is a better way to help the dogs. None the less G2K is definitely part of the landscape of racing and if Bill is describing objectively issues surrounding racing they are going to have to be part of that discussion.

Angela J. said...

I look forward to seeing the finished documentary, too. Anything that gets people talking and thinking about greyhound adoption is a good thing. If all of the time, money and energy that is expended by opposing sides, (and even different adoption groups that fight among themselves), was focused instead on getting good homes for the dogs when their racing career is finished, greyhounds would be much better off.

Greyhounds CAN Sit said...

It's tricky, isn't it. I've seen the trailer and I'm hoping to see the documentary. I hope it raises the profile of Greyhounds and the fact that they make wonderful pets without sending every money hungry scum bag out to buy a dog and a couple of bitches and breed them. I have a very low opinion of the human race most of the time.