Leaflets and banners collected from League office – check.
Car topped up with petrol and windscreen washer – check.
Maps printed in case of sat nav fail – check.
Water and throat sweets packed – check.

Suitably prepared, I set off for Towcester Racecourse to protest outside the Greyhound Derby final. It’s the greyhound racing industry’s flagship event and a key opportunity to raise awareness of greyhound injuries and deaths both to punters and passers-by.

Towcester is the only greyhound track to have opened in the last nine years whereas eight have closed - leaving 22 tracks licenced by the GBGB and five independent (flapping) tracks. Whilst it’s a beautiful art deco venue in lush countryside I believe this does not make what takes place here any more acceptable. Dogs die here.

Having collected a friend and first-time protestor from the station, we arrived around 3:30. When I arrived protesters were already lining both sides of the road, both sides of the pedestrian entrance and on the roundabout giving us excellent visibility. With approximately 50 protestors in attendance, we had a strong visible presence.

Not just a human presence either - a local senior rescued greyhound popped down for a brief visit – attending a track protest is on his bucket list. He got lots of cuddles and homemade treats and after several attempts I managed to get him to pose with a banner.

Retired greyhound at Towcester Greyhound Racing Track

Some, including myself, held banners and shouted out the injury and death data, others tried to hand out leaflets (only to those who wanted them – we have strict protest guidelines about our conduct). I wonder what people think as they walk past ignoring us – do they not believe us or do they simply not care? Others laugh at us or get angry. Of course we got the usual unoriginal taunts – apparently I need a job, a life and according to one drunk man something far more explicit! But we did get more supportive toots than jeers from passing vehicles. At the regular track protests such as Poole, Brighton or Manchester (to name just a few) anti racing advocates do persuade people not to enter. However the Derby is neither cheap nor easy to travel to – so we were not expecting to turn punters turn away. All we can do is share the facts and hope they make an informed choice not to attend again.

The protest wrapped up around 7:30pm – two hours after the gates opened and an hour after the first race. There was only 15 minutes between the last race at 10:40pm and the DJ set so I have no idea if any greyhounds were still onsite.

The Derby began in May with 151 greyhounds running in the first round heats. The six finalists ran their sixth Derby race on 2 June - there were 13 other races that day too. Four dogs - Power Local, Headford Octane, No Intention and Farloe Hutch did not finish their races in the earlier rounds. They have not raced since according to their GBGB pages (as of 21st June). I do not know if they are recovering from injuries, been “retired” or have been killed.

The industry admitted that 1,013 greyhounds were killed in 2017.

Protester at Towcester Greyhound Protest