A GROUP of Oxford city councillors have spoken out against the return of greyhound racing after a protest that was held in the city centre.

Labour councillors Paula Dunne and Imogen Thomas and Green councillor Lucy Pegg are opposed to the sport coming back to Oxford Stadium after Kevin Boothby secured a 10-year lease from Galliard Homes to bring it back.

Ms Dunne and Ms Pegg participated in a demonstration yesterday in Cornmarket Street with Oxford Vegan Action.

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Ms Dunne said: "I was shocked when I heard the news that greyhound racing was returning to Oxford. It has been on the decline for years because it’s outdated and cruel as it poses significant dangers to animal welfare.

"Commercial greyhound racing exists in only eight countries including the UK and Ireland. It’s hypocritical that we treat some dogs like family members in the UK and then treat greyhounds like disposable objects.

"You can see it on The Greyhound Board of Great Britain’s (GBGB) website that each stadium needs to have a freezer suitable for the storage of a greyhound carcase which shows there is an expectation that greyhounds will die on the tracks.

"Another rule on the website is that greyhounds can be killed if no other option is available to be rehomed or retained as a pet.

"It is a low bar for the GBGB to pride itself on having significantly less deaths and injuries compared to other years. There shouldn’t be any at all if it is truly a safe industry with welfare standards at its heart.

"There are so many other ways to use the stadium for entertainment that is cruelty free. I will continue to be vocal about my opposition to this unethical so-called 'sport'."

Oxford Stadium says its greyhounds are 'loved and cared for before, during and after their racing careers'.

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The dogs will be 'checked by a vet both before and after racing and their residential kennels are closely monitored by the GBGB, vets and independent animal welfare auditors'.

But despite this, the councillors would prefer to see the stadium used for something else.

Ms Pegg said: "As we emerge from the restrictions of the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to rethink how we use the infrastructure in our city. Oxford Stadium has huge potential to be transformed into a vital asset for Oxford.

"That's why I've pushed for the City Council to consider alternative uses for the stadium, including the prospect of converting it into a velodrome, which would be a pioneering cycling project for Oxford's residents."

Ms Thomas is concerned that greyhounds race in 'extreme weather' with the industry allowing greyhounds to race in 33C.

A spokesperson for the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, the regulator of licensed greyhound racing, said:

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"Across licensed greyhound racing, the health, wellbeing and happiness of racing greyhounds is paramount.  Throughout the sport, we seek to uphold the very highest standards of welfare at all times so that every registered greyhound receives the very best care both on and off the track. 

"Whilst the number of greyhounds sustaining injuries at the track is falling year-on-year, through our Greyhound Commitment, we are committed to reducing this number further and are introducing measures aimed at making racing even safer.

"Our Hot Weather Policy, which is based on the latest veterinary and scientific research and was developed in close consultation with our animal welfare partners, sets out the special measures which need to be followed to keep greyhounds comfortable at all times. 

"The policy, which is followed by all GBGB-licensed stadia, is based on the principle that the comfort, health and wellbeing of a greyhound should be the only factor in deciding whether or not they can race."

GBGB says the figures on placards used during the protest yesterday are 'wholly inaccurate' and that track injuries and fatalities in licensed greyhound racing are far lower.

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