By Erik Jensen
Mrs Brown seemed like regular pig doggers. They talked about hunting pigs, blooding hounds and listened to jokes about stray bullets killing sheep.
It would take close inspection to notice Linda's wedding ring had been bought for $12 at Paddy's Markets - that she could see perfectly well without her large glasses, that her marriage was a fake, and her hair a wig.
''I was Linda with an 'i'. It's better not to make things too complicated,'' says Lynda Stoner, the former star of Cop Shop and The Young Doctors, after spending a weekend undercover for Animal Liberation at the Game Council's first pig-dogging workshop.
''Without Animal Liberation doing these sort of things, a lot of information would not get out. You cannot get this information by knocking on the door and asking for it.''
Pig dogging - in which pigs are pursued and caught by dogs and then killed with knives - has been legal in declared state forests since March 2006. About the same time, Animal Liberation says it began receiving phone calls from farmers troubled by the brutality of the practice.
''It's such an underground culture. I've spoken to other hunters; they are so disparaging of pig doggers. They are the lowest of the low,'' Stoner said.
''If they're proposing this is to reduce the number of feral animals, it's the most disgusting, most barbaric, most brutal thing they could do.''
Last month, an opportunity presented itself to Animal Liberation: ''the best pig dog event this year,'' as the state government's Game Council described it. It was a two-day workshop on dog training, game dispatching and meat preparation.
Stoner and a colleague - both vegans - signed up. ''The only way to do it is to go in there and try to dissociate, to mentally put yourself in another place and know that you're doing it to try to get this terrible thing stopped,'' she said of the time undercover, though she confessed she did not stay the entire weekend.
''I kept thinking we would
get done but I don't think they had any idea. You joke with these people,
listen to them joking about killing, and you're one of them. You just do it.
Afterwards, there's lots of showers.''
The pair found the workshop run without a syllabus, which the council has since admitted. Trainers advised gored dogs could be wrapped with cling film to hold in their intestines, that more superficial wounds could be fixed in the field with a stapler.
''These comments,'' the Game Council later said, ''were not part of the actual dog care and first aid classes Ö and were not given as any form of official advice.''
They found the session on humanely killing pigs was carried out on a rubber creature that more closely resembled a deer.
''When the workshop commenced,'' said Steven Whan, the minister responsible
for the council, ''the rubber pig body could not be located and a rubber
deer body of similar body size had to be substituted at the last minute.''
And yet the event was described as a success. ''It is clear that the event was regarded as one of our most successful training workshops to date,'' a council spokesman said.
Mr Whan said it was a ''hands on'' course that could not be taught effectively from the sort of syllabus other licensing bodies would be expected to use.
''The Game Council's support for pig dogging as an effective means of feral animal control is based on the statistical success of it in hunting, and the lack of suitable alternatives,'' he said, citing the 3914 pigs killed this way in state forests since 2006.
The information Stoner gathered at the workshop, typed and provided to the Greens will form the basis of Animal Liberation's campaign against pig dogging - a sport the group describes as akin to dog fighting, and surpassed only by factory farming as a concern.
The Greens' spokeswoman on animal welfare, Lee Rhiannon, says the Game Council is a ''bankrupt model'' for controlling feral animals. Her party has a bill before Parliament to have the council disbanded and its $3.5 million in annual government funds directed into other means of pest management.
''The Game Council is a child born of an unhealthy relationship between the government and the Shooters Party,'' she said.
''[It] is bent on advancing the interests of recreational hunters who then send their votes onto the Shooters Party.''
For Stoner the issue is more base still.
''There's no one out there policing what people do to these animals. If
it's the Game Council with all of their wink wink, nudge nudge, there's no
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