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Greyhounds racing, Belle Vue Greyhound Stadium, Manchester, England, United Kingdom

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Published on Oct 18, 2012

Belle Vue Stadium is a greyhound racing track in Belle Vue, Manchester, where the very first race around an oval track in Britain was held on 24 July 1926. It is also used for speedway as the home ground of Elite League team Belle Vue Aces since 1988 and since 1999 has British Stock Car Association (BriSCA), the British governing body for stock car racing and banger racing. The stadium holds a number of BriSCA events and has become one of the most popular venues in the North-West of England. The track has always been the property of Greyhound Racing Association Ltd. (GRA), which has invested heavily in it right through to the current day. The stadium offers luxury glass-fronted grandstands, restaurant, hospitality boxes, and several bars. Greyhound racing takes place on Friday and Saturday evenings. In 1925 Charles A. Munn, an American businessman, made a deal with Smith and Sawyer for the rights to promote the greyhound racing in Britain. Although the earlier attempt to introduce mechanical racing at Hendon had almost been forgotten, the pastime of coursing was as strong as ever in Britain. Fortunately for Munn, the first person he contacted with regards to reintroducing greyhound racing into Britain was Major L. Lyne Dixson. The Major was a leading figure in British field sports and was quickly won over to the idea presented to him by the American entrepreneur. Finding other supporters proved to rather difficult however. With the General Strike of 1926 looming, the two men scoured the country in an attempt to find others who would join them. Eventually they met Brigadier-General Alfred Critchley, who in turn introduced them to Sir William Gentle JP. Between them they raised £22,000 and formed the Greyhound Racing Association Ltd. When deciding where to situate their new stadium, Manchester was considered to be the ideal place because of its sporting and gambling links. Close to the city centre, the consortium erected the first custom-built greyhound stadium and called it Belle Vue, where the very first race around an oval track in Britain was held on 24 July 1926. More than 1,700 people were attracted to the meeting where they watched a greyhound called Mistley win over 440 yards (402 m). By June 1927, the stadium was attracting almost 70,000 visitors a week. Six races with seven dogs in each race were held in the first meeting. Fifty years later a stand was named after Mistley, the winner of the first race. Running the quarter-mile flat course in 25 seconds, Mistley romped home eight lengths clear at 6–1. Belle Vue increased the number of runners per race to seven, but after the formation of the NGRC in 1928 the maximum number of dogs per race was limited to six. Since 2007 protests have been held against greyhound racing at Belle Vue. Greyhound Action, an animal rights organisation which campaigned for an end to greyhound racing, held weekly protests outside the races each Saturday and occasionally on Fridays. In 2010 The Belle Vue Greyhound Action Group also organized and held a series of demonstrations to protest at the entertainer Dara O'Briain's participation in greyhound racing. Campaigners at Belle Vue got an article published in the Irish press about O'Briain's greyhound, Snip Nua, which it is believed was the first ever in the Irish press to state that racing greyhounds are killed for economic reasons. In 2008 the Sunday Times revealed that Belle Vue dogs were being sent for research at Liverpool vets school by trainer Richard Fielding. Further instances of injury were highlighted in 2014, when a trial session was halted after several dogs sustained serious injuries and one death. In 2010 concerns were raised about the high injury rates at Belle Vue. Since Greyhound Action disbanded in 2011, the protests have been held by a protest group who call themselves "Shut down Belle Vue". A 2012 article in the Sunday Express also called the kennels of two Belle Vue trainers, Beverly Heaton and Nigel Saunders, disgusting. The article alleged that dogs were kept in cramped dilapidated kennels without heating and in some cases doors and that faeces and urine had not been adequately removed. A greyhound protection group, Greytexploitations, provided video footage to substantiate allegations of the poor conditions, these included the image of a Greyhound skull on a dog waste heap. In January 2014 Caged North West held a protest demo at Manchester's Deansgate Hilton hotel against the Greyhound Board of Great Britain's awards night. Around 400 protesters attended the demo but despite this the event failed to be mentioned by the media. CAGED NW publicized the event. In July 2014 CAGED NW and other greyhound protection groups held a remembrance event in Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens, held on the 88th anniversary of the opening of Belle Vue. The event featured a service by a church minister and a fly past by a light aircraft carrying a banner displaying the words "YOU BET THEY DIE".

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