ANIMAL cruelty allegations against South Australian and New South Wales shearers implicated in a PETA video expose three years ago are unlikely to be tested in court.
However, PETA Australia’s associate director of campaigns Ashley Fruno has warned the wool industry should consider itself on notice and wise to conduct shearing as if always under scrutiny.
Mr Fruno said the timeframes during which charges could have been brought in New South Wales and South Australia have expired, although extensive evidence was sent to the authorities within the required time.
“PETA US provided information including identifying details obtained by the investigators to the applicable authorities, but we cannot comment on the workings of the investigations by those departments,” he said.
“PETA and its affiliates remain committed to exposing cruelty to animals of all sorts, in all industries, around the globe.
“The wool industry should consider themselves on notice and would be wise to conduct shearing as if they are always under scrutiny.”
In New South Wales, proceedings for offenses under the state’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 must commence not later than 12 months after the date the offence was allegedly committed. This period is two years under South Australia’s Animal Welfare Act 1985 and three years under the animal cruelty provisions of Victoria’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.
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Five more shearers on charges
Five more shearers will face charges in Victoria next year, after a South Australian shearer from Lucindale in the state’s south-east pleaded to four charges of animal cruelty in the Horsham Magistrates’ Court last week.
The 60-year-old pleaded guilty to abusing sheep by twisting the limbs of sheep and lambs while standing on them, stomping on them and kneeing a lamb with force in a Neuarpurr shearing shed in 2013.
The man was banned from shearing or being in charge of any farm animal in Victoria for two years after an investigation into PETA footage and complaints by Agriculture Victoria.
Victorian authorities have refused to name the Lucindale shearer, but Mr Fruno said it is essential that these shearers are named and shamed to allow wool producers concerned with this verdict to ban these workers from their properties.
“Those guilty of violent offences against humans can be named to ensure the safety of others in the future.
“This case should be no different,” he said.
As a result of the Agriculture Victoria investigation, as well as the six shearers who have been charged, up to 40 additional workers were considered persons of interest in Victoria alone.
“There’s no doubt that wilful and gratuitous cruelty to animals has been par for the course in Australia’s shearing sheds”, Mr Fruno said.
“This is a warning to all shearers that if you abuse sheep or allow someone to do so, you are likely to face prosecution.
“PETA will make individual case decisions on when to alert authorities and if it can be right away, it will be.”
The PETA evidence included video footage of 235 incidents recorded in Victoria as well as more than 40 pages of formal legal complaints.
Agriculture Victoria said in the spring of 2013, two individuals obtained work with shearing contractors as rouseabouts in different shearing sheds across New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. The individuals, fitted with cameras, documented what they described as cruel shearing practices to Australian sheep. On July 9, 2014 simultaneous complaints were lodged with the relevant authorities in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, including an edited video package that was posted to YouTube.