Racing boss Peter V’landys has choked up in court as he recalled “vile” emails sent in the wake of an explosive ABC report about animal cruelty.
Racing boss Peter V’landys has choked up in court as he recalled “vile” emails sent in the wake of an explosive ABC report about animal cruelty.

Email wished racing chief's kids had cancer

Racing boss Peter V'landys felt the ABC set him up as the "face" of abhorrent cruelty to horses - revealed in sickening footage from a Queensland abattoir - that he had no power to prevent, a court has heard.

The Racing NSW chief executive was stunned he was not offered the same courtesy to see the footage as two "activists" also featured in 7.30's explosive report The Final Race before being interviewed for the program.

He choked up as he recalled the flood of "vile" emails he read through after the segment aired last October, recalling how some "lowlifes" stated they hoped he would end up in an abattoir.

But he said the email that hurt most wished cancer and a slow death on his two young kids who are under 10 years old.

"The one that disturbed me the most was the one in relation to my children," he told the Federal Court on Thursday.

Peter V'landys is suing the ABC for defamation. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw
Peter V'landys is suing the ABC for defamation. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw

The 58-year-old is suing the national broadcaster, and journalist Caro Meldrum-Hanna, for aggravated damages over the program from October 17 last year that exposed the horrific mistreatment of retired thoroughbreds at the Meramist abattoir in Caboolture.

He claims to have suffered significant reputational and personal hurt after being deliberately "ambushed" and painted as someone who "callously permits the wholesale slaughter" of horses when he fronted cameras for the program, completely unaware the ABC had obtained the appalling footage.

The ABC denies the program carried the defamatory imputations as claimed.

Mr V'landys said on Thursday he felt the broadcaster "deceived and conned" him by withholding the footage before his sit-down with Ms Meldrum-Hanna two days before the show went to air.

Peter V‘landys appearing on the ABC program on October 17, 2019.
Peter V‘landys appearing on the ABC program on October 17, 2019.

That robbed him of the opportunity to voice his utter disgust and made his answers, which would have been different, look "flippant" as viewers assumed he was aware of the cruelty, he said.

In his interview he claimed to have no knowledge of the practice in NSW.

"I felt I was denied the courtesy and procedural fairness that the other participants on the show had," he said.

"I didn't want to be the person associated with the Meramist footage because it has nothing to do with me."

A disturbing scene from the ABC’s 7.30 report.
A disturbing scene from the ABC’s 7.30 report.

On Thursday former Queensland premier Peter Beattie described Mr V'landys, who he hand picked to replace him as chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission, as a man of "integrity and honesty".

Mr Beattie said The Final Race came at a "bad time" for his successor, who was yet to win over the rest of his commissioners.

"To be frank I had gone out on a limb to support him, and I was concerned that if this was true (the allegations in the report), it would damage his reputation among the other commissioners," he said.

"It's the most upset I've seen him, he was very upset. He felt his reputation had been damaged, and he wanted everyone to know the truth."

Former Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter Beattie said Mr V’landys was a man of ‘integrity and honesty’. Picture: AAP Image/Chris Pavlich
Former Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter Beattie said Mr V’landys was a man of ‘integrity and honesty’. Picture: AAP Image/Chris Pavlich

After the program aired, viewers began sending a "firestorm" of abuse to Racing NSW and its boss.

"I knew straight way that I was being set up as the person being responsible for this cruelty to horses … that couldn't be farther from the truth," he said.

"I think they were trying to portray that I was aware of Meramist, that I allowed Meramist to happen."

Mr V'landys also said Racing NSW would have been able to provide crucial information about the 14 horses from NSW identified in the program as being slaughtered if the ABC had asked before the program went to air.

Mr V’landys said he had lost sleep over the footage. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw
Mr V’landys said he had lost sleep over the footage. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw

One of them was still alive, while 12 of the horses had predominantly raced and domiciled in other states and were no longer under the body's jurisdiction.

Two of them had been sent to an abattoir by a trainer who had lied to Racing NSW about the animals' status, and his licence was revoked.

He said Racing NSW was the only body in Australia that had outlawed horses being sent to abattoirs or knackeries if they had been predominantly domiciled in the state.

"What was portrayed on that show, the majority had not breached the rules," he said.

The hearing continues.

Originally published as Email wished racing chief's kids had cancer


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