More than one year on since ABC’s Four Corners exposed the illegal use of live baiting in greyhound training, The Newsroom investigates what has changed in the industry.
In February 2015, the ABC’s Four Corners program ran a report titled “Making a Killing” which exposed the use of live bait. The hidden surveillance provided by Animal Liberation Queensland and Animals Australia showed the use of live rabbits and possums in training greyhounds. The cruel acts were recorded in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
Live bait is illegal across Australia, and is not considered an effective means of training greyhounds. Robert Britton, a full-time greyhound trainer for 35 years, told The Newsroom using live bait wouldn’t improve a greyhound’s odds of winning.
“The small group that were involved in it did it because of the flawed belief that they had to do it to get the best chasing effort out of their greyhound or obtain an edge over their opposition.”
Mr Britton explained that since the live bait scandal there has been a cultural shift within the industry.
“If live baiting still occurs, it is completely hidden. If it were going on I’m certain someone would talk about it,” he said. “I talk to a lot people in the sport and can honestly say I haven’t heard any rumours of it going on.”
The RSPCA also concluded “there is no documented evidence that this [live bait] will make a difference”.
This is an excerpt from the program that shook the industry.
A year on, how have things changed?
Carcasses outlawed, February 2015
Mr Britton said the industry has outlawed the use of carcasses.
“[Carcasses] were the standard means of training greyhounds to chase. People can now only use cured skins,” he said.
Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) announced the change days after the live bait story broke. A GRV media release on February, 19 2015, said “effective immediately” only “artificial materials are permitted” for training greyhounds.
“The exposure of live baiting by Four Corners and subsequent change to rules is significant in that it demonstrates that GRV’s focus on animal welfare is much broader than just the welfare of the greyhound,” said Mr Britton.
GRV Board resigns, March 2015
The board of GRV resigned in March 2015 after the release of a report and interim findings which noted, “There is no evidence that the GRV board, CEO or senior management knew about the practice of live baiting occurring in Victoria.”
GRV’s interim chairman, Michael Harms, said the resignations are “in the interests of clearing the way for GRV and the Victorian Government to continue to restore public confidence to greyhound racing.”
The new board is chaired by Bernie Carolan, former CEO of the Transport Ticketing Authority and CEO of Metlink Victoria.
“Mr Carolan is widely respected and will help lead Greyhound Racing Victoria through this time of change and restore confidence in the industry,” the Minister for Racing, Martin Pakula, announced.
Other board members include Rob Greenall, a registered veterinarian, Peita Elkhorne, a former director at Melbourne Greyhound Racing Association and Judith Bornstein who is “closely involved in Victoria greyhound racing through her responsibility for industrial relations within the industry.”
Changes to national rules, July 2015
Greyhounds Australasia has changed the national racing rules four times since the live bait story broke.
Before July 1, 2015, it was an offence for any person to cause pain to a greyhound. Now Greyhounds Australasia’s rules stipulate that “possession” of something that could “inflict undue suffering on a greyhound” is an offence.
New rules protecting breeding dogs were introduced on the same day. Previously there were no restrictions on the number of litters a greyhound could have, however they’re now limited to three in their lifetime. They must also be vaccinated with C5 (the minimum requirement for most boarding kennels) within the past 12 months, be DNA tested to confirm their pedigree and be less than eight years old.
These costly overheads to greyhound trainers include, but are not limited to:
- $150 for registration, if the greyhound hadn’t already whelped before February, 1 2016
- $160 for the DNA test kit
- Veterinary costs for the DNA test
- Vaccination costs
Registered litters in Australia
Breeding numbers have plummeted nationwide, going from 196 in July 2014 to 95 in July 2015, when the new breeding registration rules were introduced, a drop of 51.5 per cent. There has also been a considerable decline in litters in the months January and February this year compared with the same period in 2014 and 2015.
Greyhound industry estimates show 13,000-17,000 healthy dogs are killed every year as a direct result of the greyhound racing industry. A further 7,000 greyhounds don’t even make it to the track, equating to 40 per cent of all greyhounds whelped, an inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in NSW has found.
On February, 1 2016, GRV announced new rules for the registration of breeding females. These are in accordance with Greyhounds Australasia’s rule changes last July.
Court to hear live baiting charges, February/April 2016
On February 18, 2016, 14 Victorians charged in relation to the alleged live bait scandal uncovered by Four Corners appeared in court to face charges brought by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).
The 14 cases have been adjourned to April 1. – Matthew Male
Photos provided by GRV.