The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 49.0°F | Overcast

COLUMN

Save Racing, Save Jobs, Save Research

Michael J. Ring

If you enjoy eating meat or wearing leather, or you conduct research involving animal experimentation, your rights in Massachusetts could be at grave risk.

Bay State voters will be asked this November to decide Question 3, which, if passed, would abolish the sport of greyhound racing in Massachusetts. But Question 3 isn’t just about greyhound racing. It’s about the attempts of animal rights extremists to impose their radical agenda on the people of Massachusetts. Question 3 deserves to be defeated soundly.

The allegations of Question 3 supporters that greyhounds are abused at Massachusetts tracks are spurious lies. The greyhounds at Massachusetts’ two tracks, Wonderland and Raynham-Taunton, receive the highest level of care. They are well-fed, feasting on a stew of beef, chicken, vegetables, and barley each day. Greyhounds receive expert veterinary care to insure they are in peak athletic form. They enjoy several periods of exercise each day. The greyhounds at Raynham and Wonderland receive better care and treatment than most family pets.

Greyhound racing is one of the most highly regulated industries in Massachusetts. State racing commission inspectors guarantee that greyhounds receive the high level of care that they deserve. Additionally, Massachusetts is the only state in the nation with a unit of the Massachusetts State Police assigned to aid the Racing Commission in its inspections. With such a high level of oversight, it should be no surprise that there is no abuse of greyhounds at the two tracks in Massachusetts. As State Racing Commissioner Robert Hutchinson bluntly told The Boston Phoenix, “We’re hard-asses.”

A simple, logical analysis of the facts surrounding greyhound racing demonstrates that kennels have incentives to provide only the maximum possible level of care. Since kennel owners and employees depend on racing greyhounds for their livelihoods, they of course want to guarantee their greyhounds are in peak physical shape. It’s a simple fact of logic: a well-nourished, well-cared-for greyhound is more likely to run a good race.

And greyhound owners and trainers will go to great lengths to care for their animals if an injury does occur. One example to which I can personally attest is the recovery of KC Sundrop. KC Sundrop was seriously injured after winning her maiden race, but her trainer never gave up on her, giving her the therapy she needed for several months until she was able to race again. KC Sundrop has fully recovered and recently won a top grade race at Lincoln Park, the nation’s most competitive greyhound track.

But logic has never stopped Question 3 proponents from continuing their campaign of lies and misinformation. Supporters of Question 3 admit they are using documentation of allegedly abused or killed greyhounds from other states, and even other countries, in an attempt to sell Massachusetts voters on their agenda. In Massachusetts, the truth is not on their side. The Massachusetts State Racing Commission reports that of 2,195 greyhounds leaving Wonderland and Raynham in 1999, only 58 mostly ill or injured greyhounds were humanely euthanized. Wonderland and Raynham both do outstanding jobs in placing retired greyhounds with families as pets, and many Massachusetts greyhounds return to greyhound farms for breeding purposes after their careers are over.

While supporters of Question 3 claim to be concerned about greyhounds, they apparently have no sympathy for the thousands of Massachusetts residents who derive a livelihood from greyhound racing. Approximately 2,000 men and women are employed in this state by the greyhound tracks, kennels, and industry suppliers. What will happen to these hardworking employees and their families if Question 3 is passed? Question 3’s radical agenda endangers many union jobs -- not just at tracks, but also in industries such as meatpacking and leather tanning which could be future targets of animal rights activists. A scant few nonunion jobs elsewhere in Massachusetts’ service industries can offer the benefits on which a worker can support his or her family. In putting the rights of animals before the rights of people, Question 3 puts thousands of people in economic jeopardy.

And the animal-rights activists backing Question 3 won’t be content to stop with just greyhound racing. Extremist groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which supports abolishing greyhound racing, will come back for more. The animal rights community wants to abolish horse racing, zoos, aquariums, the wearing of leather and fur, the eating of meat or fish, and even the use of animals for potentially life-saving medical research.

While the placement of animal rights above our rights will negatively impact all of us, any professor or student engaged in animal research should especially speak strongly and vehemently against this proposal. MIT and the biotechnology community in Cambridge are some of America’s great centers of biological research. The work which is conducted on this campus and at nearby companies could someday save our lives. A necessary part of the research of new drugs and vaccines is to test their effects on animals before conducting human trials. The explosion of new drugs and vaccines over the past decade have already saved or improved countless lives, and the potential for lifesaving medical research should grow only brighter as medical science advances.

But a victory for animal rights activists would send a chilling wind through the scientific community. The essence of Question 3 is that animal rights are more important that your rights as a human being. In other words, Question 3 proponents argue that you do not have a right to use animals responsibly, be it for entertainment or critical scientific research. Animal rights activists want to interfere in your ability to conduct science for the betterment of humankind, and passage of Question 3 would make that fight much easier for them.

The false claims of Question 3 supporters regarding treatment of greyhounds are reason enough to merit overwhelming rejection of this initiative. But the attempts of animal rights extremists to force their agenda on Massachusetts, and the threat that passage of Question 3 would pose to people who enjoy eating meat, hunting, or favor the use of animals in medical research, are simply scary. The only way to prevent this radical agenda from spreading further is by voting a loud and clear “NO” on Question 3 next month. Remember -- it’s not just about greyhound racing.