Fifty-Five Dead Greyhounds Were Found in a Mass Grave in Queensland

Animal rights group claims the mass killing of racing dogs is an open secret and an ongoing problem in Australia.

Jack Callil

Jack Callil

Image via Wikimedia Commons user AngMoKio

On Tuesday, the decomposing carcasses of 55 greyhounds were found dumped in remote bushland in Queensland, Australia. The surrounding area was littered with .22 caliber bullet cartridges. The Queensland Police and the RSPCA Greyhound Taskforce are currently investigating the grim discovery and looking for evidence of inhumane treatment.

Detective Superintendent Mark Ainsworth described the find as "nothing short of abhorrent," while Queensland's Police Minister Jo-Anne Miller called the perpetrators "oxygen thieves." However, animal rights groups claim the discovery isn't surprising at all—they've been lobbying against mass greyhound executions for years.

"There's still thousands out there," Lisa White, President of greyhound-adoption group Friends of the Hound, said. She claims that because of the cruel nature of the greyhound-racing industry, execution is a common outcome for unused dogs. "Over a ten-year period, there were 90,000 greyhounds bred for racing in [New South Wales] alone, but only around 6,000 that made it professionally," she said. "So where are those other dogs?"

For the thousands of greyhounds who don't become professional racers, some trainers choose to dispose of them. Ms. White added that fortunately some greyhounds were outsourced via adoption programs. Some Queensland vets have even taken to euthanize failed racing dogs for $20 each. But despite these efforts, dogs continue to be killed.

"It's no surprise to us that mass graves are found," she said. "The real issue is that most Australians would not agree [that] this kind of execution on a grand scale is ethical—but unfortunately in Queensland it's legal to just breed dogs to die."

Queensland's Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 does state it's only illegal to kill animals in an "inhumane" way. Inhumane is defined as a method that causes them "not to die quickly" or suffer "unreasonable pain." So despite the ethical implication, the mass execution of greyhounds by a bullet to the brain is technically lawful.

But outside of this case, the larger problem for animal justice groups is that they have little way of knowing if greyhounds are being killed inhumanely on a large scale. QLD Police said that applications for search warrants must first pass a "reasonable belief test," one that gives sufficient proof there is cause to inspect a property. This means for prosecuting agencies like the RSPCA must first prove that trainers are inhumanely disposing of greyhounds, before they can inspect their property.

"It's a vicious cycle," said Michael Beatty, a spokesperson for the RSPCA. "Because there is little other way we can get evidence for a warrant, without inspecting the property in the first place. The usual evidence we work off are people coming forward with information, ones prepared to speak on a sworn testimony about where and when these killings are happening."

But these people are difficult to find, because locals concerned over greyhound breeders are often afraid to speak out against them. Inez Hamilton-Smith, co-founder of greyhound-rights groups Gone Are the Dogs, said people called her crying over how people they knew were killing greyhounds.

"One lady told me that she'd dated someone from a nearby family, but that she was never allowed out the back of the property," she said. "That's where the father killed the greyhounds, it's where the pit was." Another person was afraid to speak out, Mrs White said, because she feared if their neighbor found out they'd harm her own animals.

QLD Police and the RSPCA are currently investigating the greyhound burial pit, looking for instances of animal cruelty. The two groups have been working in unison since 4Corners revealed in February that trainers were using live possums, piglets, and rabbits on mechanical lures to train greyhounds.

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