AEGA photographer John Mottern traveled to South West Ireland and was joined by AEGA Co-Director Marion Fitzgibbon and staff from the Limerick Animal Welfare Sanctuary at a old sand quarry in the South West of Ireland where the remains of 6 to 7 greyhounds were found killed and dumped. The dogs are in many levels of decomposition which suggests that the dumping has gone on over an extended period of time. There is a disturbing sound of maggots consuming the flesh which could be clearly heard.
The Irish Guard (police) finally responded to multiple requests to visit the scene from Marion Fitzgibbon and are on scene with vets. It is unclear what will result but the tattooed ears on two of the dogs have been recovered and should yield helpful information as to who the owners were.
Ireland faces an outcry from the international community to the poor treatment of it's greyhounds and animals at large and the lack of regulations and inforcement for basic animal welfare.
Press Contact: Marion Fitzgibbon 0876736342
Louise Coleman (508) 435-5969 Cell 617 817 6707
It's Happened Again
Thoughts from the Killing Fields of Ireland
by John Mottern / AEGA
The stench of rotting flesh, death, is very strong in the air so I know we're getting close. It's a thick, familiar smell to me that would turn even the toughest of stomachs. Climbing down a small embankment of an old sand quarry in South West Ireland I find what I've seen before and already knew was there. I clearly hear the crumpling, chewing sound, again familiar and disturbing, as ten's of thousands of fat maggots destroy the evidence in an otherwise quiet landscape. It's a surreal and nightmarish sound.
I count six maybe seven greyhound carcases in different stages of decomposition lying exposed to the world, to the beautiful Irish countryside. The most recent brindle dog not more then a few days dead. I do my job, take picture to share with newspapers and magazines around the world. It's not strange to me that even in death the decomposing bodies of these greyhounds are oddly graceful, almost poetic as they were in life. In my journalist's mind I just keep asking "...really, again?...why? ...and who?"
It's the same old story. Someone needed to get rid of their extra and useless greyhound. Perhaps a dog no longer an asset as breeding stock, a failures on the track or past their prime of two or three years old. The dog was only another mouth to feed in tough economic times. Maybe on disposal day each dog got a clean shot to the head or maybe not so lucky and not so clean a shot. Then kicked, like garbage, over the edge onto the pile below to join other dogs from other days of killing. Not even enough time to dig a ditch and far enough off the beaten path to hide the guilt or some inkling of shame. These dogs rot below and remind those that pass by of the broader community's disinterest in this issue.
My first thought on arriving at the scene is are their ears still there? Have they been cut off? I've seen this done many times before to hide the tattooed registration numbers found inside most greyhounds' ears. These registration numbers identify the breeder, the dog's birth date, litter information and in this case a possible path to the guilty party which might be traceable. I know when these breeders are confronted the answer is usually the same. "I had nothing to do with that, it was someone else." Maybe in this case people will be held accountable...maybe other breeders, owners or the governing body will finally stand against their own ranks. Perhaps the community at large will become fed up with this image of Ireland.
These dogs served the business interests of their Masters. Profits and bragging rights of a winning dog may or may not have occurred from these dogs yet either way the thanks they get is a bullet and maggots. There is also the additional issue of a serious environmental impact of rotting dogs left exposed to the open air, right next to pools of water. Where has common sense gone? Decency? Is the rest of the civilized world just crazy for saying unacceptable? This is not just an "animal rights" issue this is a basic "right and wrong" issue which should be addressed and dealt with in Ireland.
I was brought to this horrific scene by Irish people who care enough to say "no" in a country where turning a blind eye is a common reaction by many. Likewise action to respond happens only with much prodding, threats of guilt by procrastination/association or fear of public opinion and the opinions of one's neighbors. "Bad for business...you understand" was the response of one local veterinarian who was afraid to get involved.
Marion Fitzgibbon, Director of the Limerick Animal Welfare Shelter and long time voice for neglected and abused animals in Ireland was tipped off to this scene by young people who discovered the carnage while walking their dog. Her attempts to get authorities and vet professionals to the location were met with a full range of excuses, buck passing, and just plain fear of what the locals might say if someone got involved. Finally, with some media attention, action was ignited and now the question is what will be done. Historically nothing will happen to those responsible but we will see.
As a journalist who covers these types of stories all around the world I have seen change happen only when the citizens in the communities effected stand up with courage to say "no this is not right and we will not have it any more." If Spain can stop bull fighting then Ireland can take better care of her animals. They can take responsibility for an industry of dog racing largely funded by the tax payers and hold those accountable who act indecently and without care. Maintaining profits does not excuse unethical behavior.