Melbourne – AAP Live pigs, rabbits and possums have been tied to mechanical lures and used as bait to train some of Australia’s most successful greyhounds.
An ABC Four Corners report showed secret footage of some of Australia’s most prominent greyhound trainers using live animals to ‘blood’ dogs.
Two-time Australian Greyhound Trainer of the Year Darren McDonald was filmed tying a piglet to a mechanical lure to be savaged by dogs.
Another long-time successful trainer, Tom Noble, was filmed taking a baby possum from its mother so the mother could be used for live baiting.
Well known local trainer John Thompson, fron Shannon Brook, is among those stood down following the airing of the program.
Animal rights activist Hayley Cotton said what they discovered on the secret footage was brutal.
‘On the tapes was probably the most horrific cruelty that you would ever come across involving dogs and animals,’ she told the ABC on Monday.
Six NSW greyhound trainers, 10 in Victoria and several in Queensland, were stood down after property inspections by the RSPCA.
One of the men stood down – Paul Anderton – was a former steward for Greyhound Racing Victoria.
Greyhounds Australasia CEO Scott Parker said an independent review of all systems relating to animal welfare and integrity would be run in the wake of the allegations.
He said live baiting was ‘abhorrent’.
GRNSW chief steward Clint Bentley said the decision to stand down the trainers was made because of the seriousness of the allegations against them.
‘While the investigations are only beginning, the allegations are of such a serious nature that we felt it imperative to suspend the five participants immediately,’ Mr Bentley said in a statement on Friday.
GRV Chief Executive Adam Wallish said 10 people had been suspended over the allegations.
‘The use of live bait in the training of greyhounds is disgusting and has no place in our sport,’ Mr Wallish said in a statement on Friday.
‘Any person engaged in live baiting can expect to be disqualified and prosecuted. We have zero tolerance for these individuals.’
Mr Wallish said live baiting is a criminal offence punishable under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 and can attract a jail term of up to two years and a fine of more than $30,000.
RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil said live baiting appeared to be an entrenched culture in the industry.
‘If it is this widespread in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, it would be naive to think it isn’t happening elsewhere,’ Ms Neil said on Monday.
The RSPCA called on state and territory governments to launch independent reviews of the laws in their greyhound industries.
Victorian Racing Minister Martin Pakula announced a broad investigation into animal welfare and allegations of animal cruelty in the greyhound racing industry by Dr Charles Milne, Chief Veterinary Officer of Victoria.
Racing Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna and Greyhound Racing Victoria will also investigate.
‘Live-baiting is barbaric, abhorrent and illegal – it has absolutely no place in Victoria’s racing industry and it must be stopped,’ Mr Pakula said.
GRV chair Peter Caillard said he was disgusted watching the Four Corners footage.
‘I watched and I was sickened. The use of live bait in the training of greyhounds is abhorrent and has no place in our sport,’ Mr Caillard said.
Mr Caillard said GRV welcomed the reviews announced by the Victorian government into the practice.
He said he did not believe live baiting was widespread in Victoria.
‘To the best of our knowledge, this disgusting and illegal behaviour is isolated in Victoria to the privately owned training facility at Tooradin,’ he said.
Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) announced a taskforce will be established to investigate live baiting within the NSW greyhound industry.
The taskforce will be headed by former High Court justice Michael McHugh.
GRNSW chief executive Brent Hogan said he hoped those featured in the Four Corners report would be punished to the full extent of the law.
‘There is no place whatsoever for animal cruelty of any kind in our sport. Animal cruelty is totally unacceptable and anyone found guilty of a cruelty offence is not welcome in the sport,’ Mr Hogan said in a statement.