Animal rights groups want the return of outdated ‘nasty’ greyhound racing to be canceled and not just delayed

Animal rights campaigners have warmly welcomed the news that Oxford Stadium has postponed its first greyhound racing matches.

The stadium has confirmed that its first scheduled racing events on Friday August 26 and Saturday August 27 will not take place.

A spokesman said: “The decision has been made to ensure that all greyhound racing related facilities have been tried and tested thoroughly before the first race meeting.”

Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns for League Against Cruel Sports, said a postponement was not enough – he wanted it cancelled.

READ ALSO: Return Of Greyhound Racing To Oxford Stadium Postponed

He said: “Only a proper ban on greyhound racing can properly protect the thousands of dogs who are injured – and killed – in Britain every year because of this so-called sport. It’s time for a change and an end to greyhound racing in this country.

And PETA Vice President Elisa Allen agreed.

She said: “The return of greyhound racing to Oxford Stadium has been repeatedly delayed – and PETA hopes this delay means that this unpleasant and abusive pursuit for dogs will not return at all.

“Greyhound racing is on its last legs as people learn that the industry treats dogs like mere money-making machines, dumping them after suffering broken legs, heatstroke and heart attacks, or just can’t run fast enough to earn money for their exploiters.

“Most people in Oxford want nothing to do with this cruelty, and it is high time this archaic practice was banned.”

The RSPCA said it and other leading UK welfare groups have long been concerned about the welfare of greyhounds used in racing.

Together with Dogs Trust, the charity has commissioned a review of the welfare of racing greyhounds in the UK, to be published this summer. The results will shape the future policy of each organization.

A spokesperson said: “Regardless of the outcome of the review, we do not believe the current status quo is acceptable. We will seek a better way to protect the welfare of racing greyhounds.”

Chief executive Kevin Boothby has secured a 10-year lease to reopen the derelict Oxford Stadium, which hosted speedway and greyhound racing for 73 years before closing in 2012, in June last year.

Last month Mr Boothby said he expected more than 2,000 punters to be at the Cowley site to watch the greyhounds on opening night and planned to increase capacity to cope on demand.

READ ALSO: Cashless payments only when Oxpens car park reopens

He said at the time: “Subject to the completion of a Greyhound Board of Great Britain inspection this month, Oxford Stadium will proudly open its doors to racing fans in August.”

He added: “We’ve had an overwhelming response for the return of speedway, and we anticipate similar demand when greyhound racing returns to Sandy Lane.

“We are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to the redevelopment of our racing facilities so that we can ensure that welfare standards at Oxford Stadium will meet global standards.”

But while the dogs’ return has been welcomed by sports fans, it has been fiercely opposed by animal rights activists.

Using data from a poll conducted by research consultancy Savanta ComRes, PETA and the League Against Cruel Sports claimed that most county residents (71%) would prefer to see the stadium used for other purposes.

The poll’s methodology was criticized by Mr Boothby, who said: ‘PETA’s survey is based on the opinions of 153 people – or 0.0002% of Oxfordshire residents.’

Almost 30,000 people – including Oxford actress Miriam Margolyes – have signed an online petition opposing the use of the stadium.

Mr Boothby said he would proactively engage with PETA and all county activists by hosting an open event “to educate people that greyhounds are loved and cared for”.

The stadium said all ticket holders will be eligible for a full refund or transfer and information on a new launch party for greyhound racing will be confirmed as soon as possible on its website and social media channels.

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