Image of a greyhound cage tendered to the Special Commission of Inquiry into greyhound racing in NSW
The billion-dollar-a-year greyhound racing industry just keeps giving to ABC reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna and her production team, who have won a bundle of top journalism awards at this year’s Walkleys and the Kennedy awards — the latter in memory of Sydney police reporter Les Kennedy.
On 7.30 last night, Meldrum-Hanna shocked ABC audiences with grim revelations about the export of greyhounds to unscrupulous networks in the former colony of Macao, the People’s Republic of China and Vietnam.
Made with the addition of film secretly shot by Animals Australia, Meldrum-Hanna’s report uncovered the trafficking in greyhounds via Sydney international airport to Asia.
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Anticipating a hostile media fall-out, Greyhound Racing NSW has announced an inquiry into the unauthorised export of racing dogs.
GRNSW will compel participants in the export trade to attend semi-judicial hearings, give evidence under oath and produce documents.
This is the first inquiry by the GRNSW’s newly formed investigations and intelligence section staffed by hard-headed former NSW police with decades of experience in major crime investigations.
Since 2013, when the Abbott government was elected, Greyhounds Australia suspended the practice of issuing greyhound passports to dogs destined for Macau. However, this did not stop the practice: owners merely dealt directly with buyers overseas and continued to send dogs, some of them champions, as well as those whose racing life was drawing to a close.
Last night’s 7.30 film showed horrendous pictures of injured greyhounds in Vietnam being destroyed by injection and their bodies thrown into open graves.
Earlier this year, Sydney and Newcastle media reports claimed that there were grave sites in the Hunter Valley and the Central Coast where hundreds of greyhounds have been buried.
One of the investigators who visited one site told Crikey the bones of dogs were piled feet high. “People in the industry must have known for years that dogs were being put down and buried in the bush,” he said. “They simply disappeared from formal records and were never seen again.”
However, the GRNSW’s net is closing in on the owners, trainers and vets who supervised the mass “disappearance” of racing-bred dogs. It has started a survey to trace retired greyhounds “to promote compliance with retirement notification requirements” and has sent emails and letters to owners asking them “to confirm the status of your inactive greyhounds”.
Most aren’t “inactive” at all; they are dead and rotting in hidden mass graveyards in the bush.
The NSW greyhound body is demanding that owners complete its survey by January 1 or “GRNSW will commence escalating disciplinary action”.
Why the sudden rush? Because a separate inquiry into allegations of misleading evidence given at an inquiry into the Keinbah trial track near Cessnock in the Hunter Valley is drawing to a close with a final report due on March 31.
It is being conducted by barrister Clive Steirn SC, a former NSW fraud squad detective who selected Rod Harvey, another senior detective, as his lead investigator.
Steirn also had a veterinary pathologist on his team to study the remains of dogs to discover how they died.
Upper house Greens MP Dr John Kaye conditionally supported the Steirn inquiry, saying:
“Greyhound racing has at last done the right thing by bringing in independent expertise.”
“It needs to make sure that the community is engaged in its deliberations. Another behind-closed-doors stitch-up would be a disaster.”
The man behind the push to clean up GRNSW is interim CEO Paul Newson, the head of the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, who was parachuted into the job in February after Caro-Meldrum’s Four Corners expose, Making a Killing.
In the wake of horrendous animal cruelty revelations, NSW Racing Minister Troy Grant was instrumental in forcing the board of the industry’s regulatory body to stand down and to appoint Newson.
Grant, a former police chief inspector, is caught in a balancing act: he wants to defend Treasury tax revenue derived from the “dish lickers” but also create an industry free of animal cruelty and race fixing.
Animal Australia activists are not impressed. Some of them believe the answer is to ban the industry altogether.