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Digital Subscriptions > Vegan Life > July 2019 > The plight of the galgos

The plight of the galgos

We look into a cruel form of dog racing in Spain

At first glance, the Spanish galgo might look like an English or Irish greyhound, but ancient breed is of a separate lineage, and the two are not closely related. However, just like greyhounds are forced to take part in race events, galgos also suffer for human entertainment. Members of the sighthound family, they are long, lean and elegant, more suited to endurance running as opposed to the sprinting prowess of English greyhounds. Galgos are calm, quiet, and gentle in nature, yet, their pleasant temperament is not why they are bred in such prevalent numbers throughout Spain.

Galgos are widely kept and used by human hunters, called galgueros, in mostly rural areas of Spain, for hunting and hare coursing (dogs chasing live hares) with betting. In old times, this agile breed was considered a prized possession by noblepersons, who held the dogs in high esteem for their keen hunting skills. Yet, in modern times, this trait is the source of the dogs’ suffering. After decades of theft and indiscriminate breeding by the lower classes, the galgo has fallen from grace and become viewed as a ‘trash dog,’ owned only by the poor classes. Now, the unfortunate creature is merely considered a ‘disposable hunting tool’, and when the short hunting season ends each year, thousands are abandoned or brutally killed by their owners, to whom they are no longer of use.

A controversial sport

In hare coursing, galgos are made to race across the countryside or an enclosed track to catch a live, fleeing hare. This form of dog racing was once popular throughout much of the world, and historically practiced in England using greyhounds or other sighthound breeds as a hunting technique (to catch prey or control pests), as well as a sport. Hare coursing is now illegal in Scotland, Wales and England, and became illegal in Northern Ireland in 2011, after being dubbed a ‘bloodthirsty’ sport. It does however, continue elsewhere in the world as a regulated and judged, competitive sport, in places like Spain using galgos, Iberia, the Republic of Ireland and the Western United States. Similarly, in lure coursing, the galgos race after a mechanical lure that travels ahead on a rail until they cross the finish line, with spectators betting beforehand on the outcomes. It is worth mentioning that whilst hare coursing is now illegal in many countries, dog racing using lures does still occur in many countries, as well as in Spain, including the UK, Australia, Macau, Mexico and the United States. There are numerous ethical concerns surrounding dog exploitative sports, even in the UK, but in Spain in particular, galgo racing is a massive issue, with very few attempts to maintain good practice and treatment of the dogs involved.

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About Vegan Life

Welcome to our jam-packed July issue. It’s always around this time of year that our staff get a bit thin on the ground, as we all head off on our summer holidays. We’ve had team members head to Ibiza, Madrid and Bali, armed with lists and recommendations, all seeking sun, sea and delicious vegan food. So to make sure you have your best summer yet, we’ve rounded up our top holiday suggestions (p42), got your sun care (p44) and snacks covered (p48) and Will Rankin has some brilliant travel hacks guaranteed to make your trip runs smoothly (p50). Closer to home, we have taken an in-depth look at the state of British wildlife (p106). I can remember, as a girl, walking through woods and seeing a huge array of animals — moles poking their heads out of mounds, timid rabbits darting back to their burrows and ponds lined with frogs. A walk through the countryside, sadly, can feel very different now — our wildlife is in serious and rapid decline with 11 per cent of our woodland species threatened with extinction. We uncover the issues affecting British nature and talk with those trying to save it. I’m also really excited to introduce our hilarious new columnist Claire Thrift (p58), who tells us about how her family are winning this BBQ season. Have a great month

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