GREYHOUND race goers at Blunsdon's Abbey Stadium were met by an animal rights demonstration on Saturday evening.

The Avon and Somerset branch of Greyhound Action staged a candlelight vigil outside the greyhound track to voice their concerns over the sport.

The group handed out leaflets to protest about cruelty to greyhounds in the racing industry as part of International Animal Rights Day.

"The whole point of the vigil is to raise awareness of what happens to thousands of greyhounds when they no longer race," said Gina Harris, co-ordinator for the Avon and Somerset branch of Greyhound Action.

"The greyhound racing industry cares for as many as 2,000 greyhounds a year, but 30,000 are mistreated, so that really is a drop in the ocean.

"Greyhounds are not just mistreated after their racing careers, they can suffer serious injuries on the tracks and I've seen greyhounds who have got broken feet because of the tight angles of the track and some have even been known to slice themselves open on the hare's running rail.

"It is a cruel sport and we've had a positive response tonight from people who say they weren't aware of the cruelty and won't go again."

Protester Claire Girbbon travelled all from Gloucester to hand out leaflets at the vigil.

She said: "I've raced a dog myself, but through a link on the Greyhound Action website I found out about the thousands of dogs who are mistreated in the racing industry.

"Greyhounds are such lovely dogs but it's because of that they are easily abused."

Helen Osbourne, 30, was horrified to learn of the cruelty.

"I didn't realise the cruelty was happening," she said.

"As a non regular at the racecourse I would definitely not go again."

But Mike Spackman, 40, also of Gorse Hill, said the protesters had done little to dampen his enthusiasm for the sport.

He said: "I would need some concrete evidence to stop me enjoying my nights here at Abbey Stadium.

"I realise there may be some cruelty, but isn't there everywhere?

"I know a couple of retired greyhounds and they are very happy."

Ryan Ockwell, deputy racing manager at the Abbey Stadium, said: "The safety of the greyhounds is paramount and they do not race unless the vet and the management are totally happy.

"The greyhound trust we support is one of the best in the country and these protesters are people who don't have all the facts.

"I've seen their leaflets before and often the dogs they have pictured on the front of them aren't even from this country they're from Italy or Spain."