Source: El Federal

A tense showdown between animal rights activists and dog racing supporters has occurred outside Congress, as the national legislature votes on a law that may see dog racing banned.

Those in favor of dog-racing marched on Congress to “protest against discrimination” and defend their passion.” They were met by animal rights activists holding banners and signs describing the sport has torture. Thinks turned bloody, with one animal rights activist reportedly receiving a broken nose.

"The galgueros [anti-abolitionists] punched this man in the face." Source: Facebook
“The galgueros [pro-dog racers] broke this activists’s nose.” Source: Facebook

The law, which has already been partly approved by the senate and has the explicit support of President Mauricio Macri, will see jail terms of up to 4 years and fines of up to 80,000 pesos for those who race dogs of “any breed.”

The law was proposed after pressure from animal rights groups, who argue that racing is rife with drug use, exploitation, mistreatment, negligence and the senseless culling of dogs.

“In their life of exploitation they suffer all kinds of neglect and receive the worst abuse: they live cramped in tiny cages, they are tied up and subjected to forced mounting for indiscriminate breeding, they are deprived of their emotional necessities, transported in boxes and trunks,” reads a petition prepared by Proyecto Galgo Argentina, in favor of banning the practice, which has over 400,000 signatures.

The laws may also reflect changes in societal attitudes towards the environment and nature. Witness the widespread support for the recent closing of the Buenos Aires zoo by the city government, and the investment in public bike paths. Breeding and racing dogs for “sport”, amusement or profit in an age when we recognise their sentience and capacity to suffer may just be plain out of date.

However, some are standing firm in favour of the practice. The galgueros (literally, grey-hounders, or those who race greyhounds or galgos), argue they haven’t been properly consulted throughout the legislative process and that the proposed law constitutes an infringement of their liberty. They describe racing as a cultural practice and way of life, closely tied to their identity. The practice is just like horse-racing, they say, and, if anything, should be regulated, not banned.

Espacio Galguero Argentina. Source: Facebook
“I demand my rights, the recognition that my dogs deserve as athletes, and respect for my tradition. Galgueros for galgueros.” Source: Facebook

 

The practice is common in the interior of Argentina, where people often bet on the outcome of the races. It’s not overly lucrative – in the provincial races, first prize is often little more than 1,000 pesos, according to La Nacion (though there’s 1 million pesos at stake in the creme-de-la-creme of dog races, Marcos Juárez) – but many invest their life and soul into the practice.

However, this passion is probably not enough. With the support of President Macri and a large section of the argentine behind the law, it seems that racing may be on the way out.