UK Politics

Unreasonable sentiment?

In an article headed “A just and timely ending”, Tim Luckhurst writes in the Times today about his “sympathy for David Smith, the builder’s merchant from Co Durham who has received death threats for killing greyhounds”. Mr Smith was featured in an article on Sunday about his “unofficial abattoir and graveyard” in Seaham, County Durham, where over the last 15 years he and his bolt gun have killed “at least 10,000” retired greyhounds, including some whose owners had given them away on the understanding that they were to be rehomed. The Sunday Times leading article stated that “the official policy of the National Greyhound Racing Club (NGRC) is that caring homes should be found for dogs so they can see out their lives”, and that the racing industry, as our second biggest spectator sport, which generates billions in betting, “is rich enough to look after its retired animals properly. It should do so. This unnecessary slaughter shames it.”

Mr Luckhurst on the other hand disagrees. He writes:

When (greyhounds) can no longer run fast they have reached the end of their useful existence. It is possible to keep them as pets, but the morality of such a decision is at least questionable. Retired they consume protein that could be more compassionately used to relieve famine in the developing world. It is a source of outrage to the citizens of poor nations: should canine appetites really take precedence over the survival of human children?

Of course many pet owners keep animals that have never served an economic purpose and never can. Childless couples regard such creatures as substitutes for offspring. Widows and widowers crave company: a loyal dog can provide it. Many families believe domestic animals make amiable and educational companions for children. Strict moral pragmatism would outlaw such practices. But that could never happen in Britain. Our affection for animals is too intense.

He does allow for some criticism of David Smith – apparently there are “legitimate questions as to whether he has declared the resultant income for tax purposes. To have failed in that duty would be genuinely antisocial” – but to object to the killing of retired greyhounds is, he says, “unreasonably sentimental”. Perhaps he’s right, but it’s better, I think, to be sentimental than to exhibit such bleakly nihilistic and mechanical callousness that you consider it a source of outrage that there are creatures alive and consuming protein while serving no economic purpose.

Sadly the 385 words that the Times gives Mr Luckhurst aren’t enough for him to tell us his views on retired humans or the disabled. They too serve no economic purpose and yet still have the nerve to consume protein which could be used to relieve famine in the developing world. Perhaps David Smith’s bolt gun could be put to use providing them with a just and timely ending. At the very least, I trust that when Tim Luckhurst no longer serves any economic purpose he’ll do the decent thing. In the event that his family object – it’s unlikely, I know, but not impossible – he can explain that they’re being unreasonably sentimental and he’s reached the end of his useful existence.