Australian greyhound racing live baiting scandal

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The Australian greyhound racing live baiting scandal is a series of events that occurred in at least three Australian states where live baiting of racing greyhounds was exposed on ABC TV and in The Sydney Morning Herald. On 16 February 2015, the Australian television current affairs program Four Corners revealed the use of live piglets, possums and rabbits to train racing greyhounds had been occurring over some years, despite self-regulatory efforts to address the issue.[1][2] The revelation led to suspensions, inquiries, widespread condemnation of the practice, and, following an inquiry, to the banning of greyhound racing in New South Wales from July 2017, and consequently, the Australian Capital Territory as well. The NSW ban was reversed on 11 October 2016, with conditions.

Background[edit]

Greyhound racing is an organized, competitive sport in which greyhound dogs are raced around a track, chasing a mechanical lure over a fixed distance. Historically, the sport is based on the principle of coursing.[3] It is a legalised form of gambling in many jurisdictions. Some greyhound trainers believe that greyhounds will chase better, and hence have a greater chance of winning the race, if they have chased and caught a live animal during training.[citation needed] The live bait animal is either attached to the mechanical lure, dragged in front of the greyhound, or thrown to it. The greyhound will often maim or kill the bait animal, resulting in death.[citation needed]

Controversy[edit]

The greyhound industry and the law provide harsh penalties for the use of live baits in training.[4][5] Nevertheless, accusations of live baiting in the Australian greyhound industry have arisen from time to time.[6]

On 16 February 2015, Four Corners exposed live baiting on training tracks in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The program included graphic surveillance footage, filmed by pro-animal activists, that showed various small animals being tied to mechanical lures where they were chased, caught and attacked by greyhounds for up to 30 minutes. Some animals had young taken and given to the dogs. The program also included interviews with many leading greyhound trainers and administrators who denied the practice of live baiting; some of them were subsequently shown to be involved in the live baiting.[7]

The program content drew immediate and widespread criticism from animal protection groups[8][9] and the wider community.[10]

National Party member of parliament and minister Barnaby Joyce criticised activists who apparently trespassed to record video of live baiting by trainers.[11]

Reactions[edit]

Australian Capital Territory[edit]

  • After announcement of the intended NSW ban, Chief Minister Andrew Barr stated that greyhound racing would be banned in the ACT[12]

New South Wales[edit]

  • Five registered participants were immediately stood down[13]
  • The Greyhound Racing NSW board was dismissed[14] and the Chief Executive Officer, Brent Hogan, stood aside
  • Former High Court of Australia judge Michael McHugh was appointed to lead a review of the industry[15]
  • Following the McHugh inquiry, the Premier announced on 7 July 2016 that greyhound racing would be banned in NSW from 1 July 2017[16]

On 2 August a rally opposing the ban was held at Hyde Park, Sydney.[17] On 5 August 2016 an alliance of greyhound racing groups took the matter to the Supreme Court of NSW in pursuit of a declaration that the inquiry report was invalid.[18] After running newspaper advertisements supporting the ban, the NSW Government was criticised by Brenton Scott, the chief executive of the Greyhound Breeders, Owners and Trainers Association. Luke Foley, NSW Labor leader, led his party's opposition to the ban.[19] In August 2016 legislation was introduced into the NSW Legislative Assembly and three National MPs crossed the floor to vote against the government; with one Liberal MP abstaining from the vote. Despite these protests, the legislation passed the lower house.[20][21]

On 11 October 2016 the reversal of the NSW ban was announced, with several conditions.[22] As of March 2017, legislation to reverse the ban has not come before the NSW Parliament and there has been no greyhound racing scheduled in NSW beyond 30 June 2017.

Queensland[edit]

  • 13 trainers are under investigation; 6 have been suspended
  • Macro Meats withdrew its sponsorship of the sport
  • Jonathan Brown resigned as an ambassador
  • One trainer was removed from the Racing Queensland Hall of Fame[23]
  • The racing industry integrity officer was stood down[24]
  • All Racing Queensland boards dismissed[25]
  • Tom Noble, on whose race track the live baiting was occurring, pleaded guilty and was sentenced on 6 September 2016 to 15 counts of serious animal cruelty. Serious Animal cruelty in the QLD Criminal Code attracts a maximum penalty of 7 years and yet Noble only received a 3 year wholly suspended sentence. The QLD Attorney-General, Yvette D'Ath, announced her decision to appeal the sentence on the grounds it was manifestly inadequate. Tom Noble appeared in the appeals court on the 17th March, 2017. The decision is yet to be announced.[26][27]

South Australia[edit]

  • Greyhound Racing SA immediately announced that anyone found to be engaging in the practice would be banished from the sport and prosecuted where possible.[28] The chief executive said that he had no evidence that live baiting was happening in South Australia but "we take little comfort from that because our monitoring processes aren't dissimilar from the eastern seaboard... We shouldn't be satisfied that our monitoring is working – I think we need to accept that, quite clearly".[29] The relevant state government ministers, RSPCA, police and Greyhound Racing SA met to consider a response, including possible changes to legislation to facilitate investigation and be tougher to prevent live baiting.[30]

Tasmania[edit]

  • The state government indicated a parliamentary inquiry would be held into the sport. In addition the states Chief Veterinarian and Director of Racing launched a joint inquiry.[31]

Victoria[edit]

  • The Victorian Government announced two separate investigations[32]
  • 15 trainers have been suspended pending an investigation, including former administrators and a Trainer of the Year[33]
  • The chairman of Greyhound Racing Victoria resigned[34]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Meldrum-Hanna, Caro; Clark, Sam (16 February 2015). "Making a Killing". abc.net.au. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "Then and Now: 12 Months of Reform" (PDF). Greyhound Racing NSW. February 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  3. ^ Genders, Roy (1981). The Encyclopaedia of Greyhound Racing. Pelham Books Ltd. ISBN 0-7207-1106-1. 
  4. ^ "ANIMAL WELFARE PENALTY GUIDELINES" (PDF). grv.org.au. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  5. ^ "Is the use of live baits and lures in greyhound racing illegal?". rspca.org.au. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  6. ^ O'Brien, Natalie (24 November 2013). "Vets claim live animals used as bait to train greyhounds". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  7. ^ Olding, Rachel (17 February 2015). "Allegations of systemic cheating and live baiting within greyhound racing industry uncovered by Four Corners". smh.com.au. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  8. ^ "Piglets, possums and rabbits tortured in sadistic greyhound training 'rituals'". animalsaustralia.org. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  9. ^ Belot, Henry (17 February 2015). "RSPCA calls for tighter regulation of greyhound industry". Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  10. ^ Casey, Brendan. "Public outrage over live baiting in greyhound racing following ABC Four Corners investigation". herald Sun. Melbourne. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  11. ^ Owens, Jared; Cormick, Brendan (17 February 2015). "Barnaby Joyce criticises activists in greyhound live-bait expose". The Australian. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  12. ^ Belot, Henry (11 July 2016). "ACT government says it can no longer support greyhound racing after NSW decision". Canberra Times. Retrieved 21 July 2016. 
  13. ^ "Greyhound Racing NSW stands down five over live baiting allegations". The Sydney Morning Herald. 13 February 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  14. ^ "Greyhound Racing NSW board dismissed amid revelations of live baiting". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  15. ^ Roots, Chris (18 February 2015). "Greyhound racing live baiting revelations should be a turning point for industry, says new chief executive". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  16. ^ "NSW Premier Mike Baird announces ban on greyhound racing after Special Commission of Inquiry". The Sydney Morning Herald. 7 July 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2016. 
  17. ^ "Hundreds protest greyhound racing ban as Mike Baird seeks to calm MPs". The Guardian. Australian Associated Press. 1 August 2016. Retrieved 10 August 2016. 
  18. ^ "Greyhound racing ban: industry alliance launches challenge in supreme court". The Guardian. Australian Associated Press. 29 July 2016. Retrieved 10 August 2016. 
  19. ^ Davey, Melissa (1 August 2016). "Anti-greyhound racing ads a misuse of NSW public funds, says industry". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 August 2016. 
  20. ^ Fogarty, Siobhan (24 August 2016). "Greyhound racing ban: Nationals MPs cross floor as bill passes Parliament". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 26 August 2016. 
  21. ^ Nicholls, Sean (24 August 2016). "Greyhound racing banned after bill passes NSW parliament". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia. Retrieved 26 August 2016. 
  22. ^ Glanville, Brigid; Gerathy, Sarah (11 October 2016). "NSW Premier confirms backflip on greyhound racing ban". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  23. ^ Newman, Beth (19 February 2015). "Racing Queensland says greyhound sponsor withdrawal 'understandable'". smh.com.au. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  24. ^ Oberhardt, Mark (22 February 2015). "Queensland greyhound racing's integrity officer stood down". smh.com.au. Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  25. ^ Paull, Nathan; Silk, Marty (2 June 2015). "Qld government sacks racing boards". AAP. 
  26. ^ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/dog-trainer-who-used-live-piglets-possums-should-be-jailed-appeals-court-20170317-gv0ujn.html
  27. ^ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/logan-greyhound-track-draws-200strong-protest-20141011-114s1x.html
  28. ^ Biddington, Tom (17 February 2015). "Greyhounds Racing SA takes tough stance on live baiting". The Advertiser. News Limited. Retrieved 21 February 2015. 
  29. ^ Washington, David (17 February 2015). "Greyhound cruelty: Live baiting "happening in SA"". IN Daily. Solstice Media. Retrieved 21 February 2015. 
  30. ^ "Racing minister Leon Bignell will not turn back on industry". News Limited. 20 February 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2015. 
  31. ^ "State Government puts greyhound racing industry on notice". The Mercury. 1 March 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  32. ^ "Greyhound racing: Victorian Integrity Commissioner says Four Corners live baiting revelations a shock". abc.net.au. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  33. ^ "More greyhound trainers suspended in Vic". 9news.com.au. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  34. ^ Lerner, Ronny (23 February 2015). "Greyhound Racing Victoria chairman Peter Caillard resigns in wake of live-baiting scandal". smh.com.au. Retrieved 23 February 2015.