Australia’s greyhound racing industry is in turmoil after a report revealed conclusive evidence of live baiting during secret training sessions.
Monday night’s ABC Four Corners program showed footage of live piglets, possums and rabbits being fixed to lures and catapulted around tracks before being killed by dogs.
Another clip from the footage, secretly filmed at training tracks in Queensland and Victoria, showed dogs being allowed to attack a writhing possum suspended from a lure.
Live baiting has been banned and criminalised for decades, but trainers and owners across the country have been using the illegal training method in the belief that it will improve a dog’s performance.
Live baiting carries substantial financial penalties and sentences of up to five years’ imprisonment. The evidence that was broadcast on the ABC could have a massive impact on the industry.
The RSPCA, in conjunction with police in NSW, Victoria and Queensland raided five properties on Wednesday last week after the Four Corners program, in conjunction with Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland, confidentially handed over the results of its investigation into the sport to the state-based RSPCAs more than a fortnight ago.
In its exclusive report, Four Corners revealed how trainers and owners across the country, working in concert with licensed trial track operators, are training their dogs using banned methods and engaging in illegal activity.
This behaviour constitutes cheating under the laws of greyhound racing.
Tracking dogs and their trainers from private training facilities and on to official race meets and using undercover investigators to infiltrate the industry, the program discovered the integrity of potentially thousands of races and millions of dollars in prize money is now in question.
Lyn White from Animals Australia said 70 people were implicated in the investigation, including leading identities.
“It’s not only the numbers of trainers involved, it is their stature in the industry,” she said in a statement.
“The 70 individuals implicated include: one of the highest profile and most successful trainers in the country; the president of a greyhound racing club; a former steward; the president of a peak body and one of the of most prolific pre-trainers of greyhounds in Australia.”
Aware that the Four Corners program was set to air, Greyhound Racing NSW, Greyhound Racing Victoria, and Racing Queensland, the sport’s statutory regulators, moved to suspend more than 20 trainers, owners and trial track operators late last week.
In another attempt to pre-empt the program, on Sunday, Racing Queensland announced a $1 million taskforce to combat live baiting and other allegations of cruelty.
But the regulators’ attempts to act raise further serious questions about their ability to fulfil obligations and adequately police the sport in addition to carrying out their dual role as the sport’s promoter. Australians are now wagering a staggering $4 billion on the sport annually.
It was also revealed the illegal activities have remained undetected by the regulators, and makes it clear self-regulation has been a failure. At the same time, the evidence could prompt governments to reconsider their support and endorsement of the sport.
‘This story will be explosive’
In an internal memo written by Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) and obtained by Four Corners at the weekend, GRV’s chief executive officer Adam Wallish encouraged trainers and owners to start strategising and preparing to react publically after the Four Corners program went to air.
“Make no mistake. This story will be explosive, emotive and extremely damaging to the future of this sport in Australia,” Mr Wallish wrote.
“As a group of people that love the greyhound breed we should all be shocked and outraged by the allegations in the story and prepared to fight the small minority that continue to partake in such practices jeopardising the future of the sport and indeed the future of the breed itself.”
Mr Wallish also urged the greyhound racing community to focus their anger on the wrongdoers in their sport, rather than the messenger.
“You will be emotional, you might be angry. Don’t be angry at those that attack us, regardless of their position. Be angry at those within the sport that are doing the wrong thing and undermining the values for which we stand,” he wrote.
“This time is a testing one for all of us in the industry and we need to stay resolute in our desire to exceed social standards and public expectations.
“The future of the sport and the wonderful greyhound breed necessitates it.”
Greyhound Racing Victoria has also set up a counselling telephone hotline to support those affected emotionally by the allegations.
The hotline is contactable on (03) 8329 1100 and will be available from 7:30am on Tuesday morning.