Racing heavyweight Peter V’landys is suing the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) for defamation after the “7.30” program allegedly portrayed V’landys as having “callously permitted” the slaughter of retired racehorses. It comes as the ABC faces scrutiny over its editorial standards.
The segment titled “The Final Race” was aired in Oct. 2019 and alleged that hundreds of former racehorses were being sent to a slaughterhouse in Caboolture, an hour north of Brisbane, in Queensland.
V’landys, the CEO of Racing New South Wales (NSW), agreed to be interviewed for the program, however, he claims he was misrepresented by the broadcast and depicted as permitting “the wholesale slaughter of thoroughbred horses.”
Further, he alleges ABC’s “7.30” program failed to inform him of secret recordings from the Queensland slaughterhouse, despite repeated requests to ABC reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna for evidence of horses being mistreated.
V’landys’s barrister, Bruce McClintock SC, told the federal court on July 27 that his client was “ambushed” by the ABC.
“[The program] deprived the applicant of the opportunity to explain, as was fact that Racing NSW has no jurisdiction over Queensland,” he said.
“He repeatedly asked, in the course of the interview, what material they had showing the appalling treatment of racehorses,” he added, saying “the journalist declined to show the video or to describe it … so he was completely in the dark.”
“When they came to broadcast the segments of the interview (featuring V’landys), they intercut that footage with the footage of my client,” the Daily Telegraph reported.
Following the broadcast of the program, V’landys reiterated through a racing industry news website, on Oct. 18, that Racing NSW “is the only state in Australia … that prohibits horses from being sent to a knackery or abattoir” if they have been mainly involved in NSW’s racing industry.
“Further, in NSW it is illegal for an abattoir to process a horse for human consumption, unlike other states,” he added.
In the statement of claim against ABC, V’landys says he has been “greatly injured” by the program and that his business, personal, and professional reputation has been brought into disrepute.
The ABC’s barrister, Clarissa Amato, told the court the ABC denied the program had defamatory meaning and questioned how V’landys could be awarded damages if he claimed injury without having seen the episode.
“He is claiming damages for hurt feelings when he has never seen the program,” the ABC’s barrister said.
However, McClintock says V’landys was “very, very well aware” of the program’s content and that the barrister was planning to show him the footage for the first time in the witness box.
He said V’landys’s fresh reaction would allow the judge to gauge his reaction and any potential damages.
ABC Under Increasing Scrutiny for Editorial Practices
The ABC’s editorial procedures have been recently criticised by several state and federal MPs, as well as activists and members of the community, following its controversial broadcast of a “Foreign Correspondent” video program and a “Background Briefing” podcast program about Falun Gong, which aired on July 21.
Dr. Lucy Zhao of the Falun Dafa Association of Australia had a similar experience to V’landys.
Zhao told The Epoch Times: “They [the ABC] didn’t tell me what the program is about or what question they wanted to ask or how my interview would be used.”
“They just wanted to get some words they wanted from me and were not interested in listening or reporting truthfully what I want to express,” she added.
As a result, Liberal Democrats MP David Limbrick wrote to the ABC board demanding an investigation into the “circumstances around the production and broadcast” of the program.
Zhao offered to introduce ABC to Falun Gong practitioners locally so the report could be “balanced and fair,” but the ABC were not “interested.”
The ABC challenged criticism of the program releasing a statement saying “we stand by the accuracy and integrity of the reports.”