PETA ups ante on shearer sheep cruelty cases

Terry Sim March 29, 2017

ANIMAL rights body PETA has linked sheep shearing with drugs on a large roadside billboard in the western Victorian city of Horsham, as four shearers are about to be sentenced over 60 animal cruelty charges.

Four sheep shearers pleaded guilty to multiple animal cruelty charges in the Horsham Magistrates Court last month and are due to be sentenced in the city on Friday.

A South Australian shearer has already pleaded guilty to four counts of cruelty and been banned from shearing for two years. Another shearer is expected to face cruelty charges in May.

The charges followed an Agriculture Victoria investigation of PETA US video footage that showed Australian shearers beating sheep with shearing handpieces, and punching and stamping on their heads and necks.

However, an Agriculture Victoria spokesperson said there was no accusation or reference to drugs in the original PETA complaint to the Victorian department.

“Drugs and alcohol would be a matter for the individual employer and/or Worksafe.

“It is also outside our area of responsibility and the investigation centred solely on the actions of the shearers towards the sheep,” the spokesperson said.

PETA has placed the billboard in Horsham calling on people to report drug and animal abuse in shearing sheds. It featured the gaunt staring face of an actor beside the words, “Dave has been up on ice for three days. Shearing and drugs don’t mix. If you see something, say something. Always report animal abuse.”

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford said shearers who did not use drugs would not be offended by the PETA billboard.

But he has been contacted by an SCAA member who knows one of the men due to be sentenced in the Horsham Magistrates Court this Friday over cruelty charges, who has already suffered from the charges and now the conviction.

“This poster has ended up targeting a few individuals either by design or inadvertently, and it has affected their families.

“It (the billboard) is certainly harsh on the individuals involved.”

Mr Letchford said PETA was implying that all people who bash sheep are ice addicts, which is “absolutely not true.” He didn’t believe the billboard or severe court sentences were necessary.

“PETA targeting these people is getting some good cheap publicity at the expense of individual’s lives.

“The graphic videos were a big enough wake-up call without the humiliation to the individuals involved,” he said.

“The lesson to all the rest of us is that you don’t need CCTV cameras in a workplace – you need to be on your best behaviour wherever you are.”

PETA associate director of campaigns Ashley Fruno said human health is at risk and animals can be injured or even killed when workers shear them under the influence of drugs.

“Shearers in Horsham and across the country can help sheep by bringing to light the dangerous behaviour which appears to be widespread throughout Australian sheds.”

Mr Letchford said the cruelty cases had been a “wake-up call” for the industry and there were numerous programs designed to prevent such incidents from happening again.

SCAA, the National Farmers Federation, WoolProducers Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and the WA Shearing Industry Association had distributed posters highlighting the shared responsibilities in wool sheds. A second poster developed by the bodies with the Australian Workers Union and AWEX focus on achieving a drug and alcohol-free workplace is about to be released.

Mr Letchford also said Shearing Industry Drug and Alcohol Safety Summit in Adelaide on May 24 to address the implementation of a zero drug and harm policy in workplaces.

“We are addressing it and we need a message.

“But most of the industry is made up of good people who don’t take drugs and go to work every day and are very professional about it,” he said.

“We need to do something about the people who are unprofessional, who choose to take drugs or alcohol and present themselves for work.”

Click here to see the latest shearing industry poster aimed at drug abuse.


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  1. Jane Schofield, March 29, 2017

    We had a shearer who was behaving badly in our shed and was asked to leave. The shearing contractor rang the next day and apologised and said this guy would never work for their business again as this is not the first time he had done the wrong thing. It sounded good, then we found out the contractor had just moved him to another team out of the area. It doesn’t give us much confidence in the system.

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