Farmers plead guilty to array of animal cruelty charges

16 June 2021

Two livestock farmers, brothers David and Anthony Maher, from Balmattum recently pleaded guilty to numerous animal cruelty and aggravated cruelty charges in the Shepparton Magistrates Court.

Anthony Maher pleaded guilty to charges of animal cruelty, aggravated cruelty leading to death and aggravated cruelty leading to serious disablement of cattle. These related to six individual cows and a herd of cattle.

David Maher pleaded guilty to threatening an Agriculture Victoria authorised officer, two of animal cruelty, one of aggravated cruelty leading to death and two of aggravated cruelty leading to serious disablement, relating to seven individual cows, a sheep and two herds of cattle.

Anthony Maher was fined $70,000 with conviction, while David Maher also convicted and fined $90,000, including a $5000 fine for threatening an authorised officer.

The Magistrate also imposed against each accused a Disqualification Order from being a person in charge of any farm animal for a period of 10 years, however suspended the order until 18 January 2022 to allow the accused to make arrangements for the animals currently in their care.

Agriculture Victoria Compliance Manager Daniel Bode said despite a number of Notices to Comply being issued, Agriculture Victoria authorised officers observed a persistence of intolerable conditions for the livestock.

“Throughout the period of offending, livestock were not being provided with appropriate food, along with inadequate supervision, veterinary treatment or safe access to water for various individual cattle or sheep, leaving our officers no alternative but to euthanise several animals,” Mr Bode said.

Mr Bode said Agriculture Victoria authorised officers do an outstanding job in often difficult circumstances conducting investigations, and as with any worker, are entitled to have a safe workplace.

“This includes being free of threats to their personal safety. The $5000 fine for threatening an authorised officer is recognition of this right.”

The Magistrate noted if the accused had pleaded not guilty, he would have imposed an immediate term of imprisonment for each accused for six and nine months respectively.

The Magistrate remarked the large number of animals affected in this case was self-evident from the material before him and the suffering these animals incurred was prolonged and profound. He further noted as a commercial enterprise the level of neglect was indicative of the highest level of culpability by each accused.

Mr Bode said apart from the obvious pain and suffering of the animals, animal welfare breaches can jeopardise Victoria’s reputation as a humane and responsible producer of food, which can affect all producers.

“This is a reminder to all livestock producers that animal cruelty will not be tolerated by the Victorian Government or the community.”

Anyone wishing to make a specific complaint in regard to livestock welfare can contact Agriculture Victoria on 136 186 or