Shearers plead guilty to 60 animal cruelty charges
1 March 2017
Four shearers have pleaded guilty to animal cruelty offences committed in Victorian sheep sheds in 2013 and 2014.
The four men faced a combined total of 60 charges in Horsham Magistrates Court on 27 February 2017.
Men aged 24, 40, 49 and 61 from Western Victoria and south-east South Australia all faced Magistrate Stratmann in relation to beating and abusing sheep while shearing.
In spring 2013, two individuals obtained work with shearing contractors as rouseabouts in shearing sheds across NSW, South Australia and Victoria.
The individuals, fitted with video cameras, documented what they described as cruel shearing practices.
On 9 July 2014 simultaneous complaints were lodged with SA, NSW and Victorian authorities and an edited video package was posted to YouTube.
Agriculture Victoria launched a full-scale investigation into the Victorian incidents.
The investigation concluded in August 2016, with seven shearers referred for prosecution and warnings issued to several persons identified with shearing techniques below industry standards.
The court was told that shearing sheep is an inherently difficult and physically demanding task, but that all persons have a responsibility to treat animals under their control in a humane manner.
There is no doubt that as sentient animals, these sheep would have sensed or perceived pain as a result of the accused's actions.
Magistrate Stratmann said the behaviour of the men was "confronting and offensive" and "very serious" and while he understood the environment of a shearing shed was "busy, hot" and "difficult," the behaviour of the accused was unacceptable.
Prosecutor Michael Woods said a clear and strong message needed to be sent to those employed in farming enterprises that mistreatment of animals under their control would not be tolerated by the community or the courts.
The four men will face Magistrate Stratmann on 31 March 2017 for sentencing.
A fifth man, aged 59 from Orford, Victoria, will face court on 4 May 2017 for similar charges.
In December 2016 in a related case a Lucindale man, aged 60, appeared in the Horsham Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty to abusing sheep whilst shearing.
He was sentenced without conviction and given an undertaking to be of good behaviour for 12 months and ordered to pay a $500 donation to RSPCA with costs of $289. He was also disqualified from being the person in charge of a farm animal for a two year period.
A seventh man is yet to face court.
Agriculture Victoria's Senior Veterinary Officer Dr Robert Suter said the community, the government and the courts take animal welfare very seriously.
"This is a reminder to everyone that allegations into cruelty will be investigated and offences contrary to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 will result in a regulatory outcome, including prosecution," Dr Suter said.Animal welfare is a high priority for the Victorian Government. As part of the current draft action plan for improving animal welfare, 75 per cent of Victorians surveyed felt the welfare of animals should be better protected through education, strong laws, penalties and strong monitoring and compliance .
Categorised under: Prosecution,Agriculture