Sheep shearers disqualified, fined upto $3500 on cruelty charges

Terry Sim March 31, 2017

FOUR shearers who pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges were disqualified from owning or being in charge of sheep for one to two years and fined $1000-$3500 in the Horsham Magistrates Court today.

Bradley James Arnold, 39, from Natimuk, Jake Lachlan Williams, 23, of Horsham, Graham Ivan Batson, 49, from Keith and Lindsay David Gillin, 61, from Hamilton, all pleaded guilty to various animal cruelty charges arising from an Agriculture Victoria investigation prompted by a PETA USA complaint with video footage.

Magistrate Mark Stratmann said the conduct demonstrated by the evidence presented was demeaning to the value of the iconic image of the Australian shearer.

He said the summaries of the allegations accepted by the accused provide detailed and disturbing verbal descriptions of the conduct alleged and video recordings taped in the sheds were also played to the court.

“I wish to note at the outset that expressions of remorse have been made by each of the accused.”

In his preliminary remarks Mr Stratmann said shearing is clearly a very old industry.

“It has been the source and the inspiration for much of Australia’s rich cultural heritage.

“The bent over stance of the shearer has become an instantly recognisable symbol for many Australians as something that forms part of our nation.”

Mr Stratmann said for many people the daily details of any particular shearing shed would be unfamiliar.

“But it is often a hot, dusty, noisy, fast and at times, highly unpredictable environment.

“The work is relentless tough and physically demanding, and the sheep can at time be dangerous depending on their type and how they have been prepared for the shearing process.”

The magistrate said the handling of large numbers of sheep required expertise and positive and often strong physical action by a shearer.

“For decades what has gone on in shearing sheds all over this country has stayed in the shed – that is no longer the case.”

He said community attitudes in relation to animal welfare were changing, there was increasing public concern about the treatment and care of animals, and this was reflected in strong legislation.

“Notwithstanding the iconic nature of the Australian shearing shed, it, its workers and other participants are not exempt from the standards of behaviour that are required of them and from prosecution if breaches of the applicable legislation are proven.”

“The conduct that has been demonstrated by each of the accused in these proceedings in my view is demeaning to the value of the iconic image of the Australian shearer.”

Mr Stratmann said the court heard strong assertions from industry players on the zero tolerance of animal cruelty and abuse by shearing contractors and property owners.

He said there had been no evidence adduced or submissions made in relation to any of the four cases before the court that indicated the accused was under the influence of an illicit drug on the relevant days.

“It should be said and made clear that any direct or indirect assertion to the contrary is a mischief.”

Shearers fined up to $3500

Mr Batson with no prior convictions and having expressed remorse was convicted and fined $3000 and was disqualified under Section 12 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 from owning or being in charge of a sheep for two years, for offences that occurred in November-December 2013.

Taking into account Mr Williams’ age, inexperience in the industry, no prior convictions and remorse expressed, Mr Stratmann convicted and fined the shearer $2000 and disqualified him from owning or being in charge of a sheep for one year, for offences committed in September-October 2013.

Mr Arnold was convicted and fined $3500 and disqualified from owning or being in charge of a sheep for two years. Mr Arnold also had no prior convictions and expressed remorse to the court. The offending occurred in October 2013.

Mr Gillin was convicted and fined $2000 and he was disqualified from owning or being in charge of a sheep for one year, for offences committed at Moyston in February 2013. He also had no prior convictions and had expressed remorse to the court.

Mr Stratmann granted a stay of 90 days for the payment of the fines. He expressed his gratitude for the way counsel representatives prepared and presented “this important case.”

Outside the court, senior prosecutor for the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources Michael Woods released a statement that said the farming community, the government and the courts take animal welfare seriously.

“This is a reminder to everyone that allegations into cruelty and offences contrary to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 will result in a regulatory outcome, including prosecution.”

WoolProducers Australia says cruelty has “no place”

Peak wool grower body WoolProducers Australia this afternoon came out strongly in response to today’s sentencing of four shearers being sentenced on animal cruelty charges in Horsham’s Magistrate’s Court.

WPA chief executive officer Jo Hall said WoolProducers strongly condemns animal cruelty and anybody found committing these offences has no place in the wool industry, as they are jeopardising the reputation of the vast majority of wool growers and shearers who treat animals humanely and with care on a daily basis.

“Shearing is an extremely difficult job, but it is done so across the country in varying conditions at least five days a week and there is never a need for cruelty to be inflicted on an animal.

“Animal welfare is a key priority for the wool industry and one we take very seriously,” she said.

“While this situation is extremely unfortunate, if there is any good to come from this, it is hoped that this case makes people aware at a grass-roots level that there are ramifications for animal cruelty and that it is not accepted by industry or the general public.”

She said it is not WoolProducers’ place to comment on the specific details of the convictions.

PETA associate director of campaigns Ashley Fruno said gratuitous and wilful abuse of animals demonstrates the serious need for reform – “for these individuals and the wool industry as a whole.”


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  1. LivestockO, May 4, 2017

    I grew up on a sheep property. My husband runs one and I and work as a livestock advisor now. I can tell you this abuse does happen, but it is a rarity. One of the issues is that some farmers are not able to tell shearers to cut it out, for fear of losing them. In some parts, getting shearers can be very difficult. The other issues are just some, but very few, farmers shouldn’t have livestock.

    I 100 percent support these fines. These fines are a great way of getting through to those young idiot shearers that this is no longer acceptable. This will help to change the small amount of culture that believes ‘some’ abuse is acceptable.

    To those who fall for PETA’s campaigns, truly, you have no idea and are just being sucked right in. I do not know much about intensive industries — pigs and chooks etc — but to attack wool is simply demonstrating you have been misled. Not all animal ‘rights’ campaigns are incorrect, but most are simply 100pc misleading and incorrect. I would happily be a cow, or a sheep on 99pc of farms. What a life – grazing all day with the occasional trip to the yards to be vaccinated, drenched, shorn etc.

    Yes, some farmers don’t deserve to own stock, as some human mothers don’t deserve to have children. Please stop tarring everyone with the same brush. What you don’t understand is that a suffering animal won’t put on weight, growth as well or as fast, or may lose her lamb, or not sire as many progeny etc. Farmers know this. How many horticulture farmers, or grain growers do you see intentionally not fertilising their crops, or not watering them? None, because they would be directly hitting their incomes. Livestock farmers are exactly the same. They do everything possible to minimise suffering because suffering directly causes an income loss — not to mention most farmers simply also love their animals and want happy healthy stock.

    I actually don’t mind the pressure to increase the speed at which some practices are improved. Mulesing is a great example — mulesing is unfortunately necessary until a better solution is available. A fly-blown sheep is often very difficult to detect in a mob until it’s advanced. It is simply an incredibly cruel thing to witness – they are literally eaten alive. No farmer, even the bad ones,. want to conduct mulesing – it’s labour intensive, costly, and halts growth temporarily; however, the only feasible options are slow to get in place and we need to progress these faster. Genetics is the ultimate aim and it is now starting to be implemented, but as this filters through all Merinos, which involves years of breeding, medication to reduce the pain is the only way.

    As someone who has spent my life around large and small sheep farms, would I still choose to be a sheep if I had to be mulesed? Absolutely. Livestock have a pretty damn good life – much much much better than many humans lives, and as one poster said, much better than many dogs locked in city apartments — not all, but many suffer great emotional stresses. Or birds locked in cages permanently or fish in bowls. Cats are a different story, they have adapted and due to the immense damage they cause to native species I don’t believe they should be allowed out of houses at all.

    Through no fault of their own, city people too often have no idea how to identify a ‘stressed’ animal, or if an animal has a good quality of life. And they believe that a few photos or video clips represents whole industries.

    Trust me, 99.9pc of farmers want abusive behaviours stopped as well and most want alternative options to stressing practices. Some farmers are a bit old and set in their ways but we are working on helping them to change. Shearing is not a very stressing practice when done correctly, it is very quick and should be painless. Your dog often finds a car trip more stressing.

    I love animals, I love raising poddy lambs or calves, and I love planting mid-storey layers to promote native species back onto farms, and I hate suffering and cruelty to any animal. But the ‘wool industry’ is not the place to be directing these feelings, in fact it serves to prove you don’t know what you’re talking about. Seriously, it’s like attacking all mothers because of what a few idiots do to their children. Or like attacking those who vaccinate, because it causes the child stress due to the needle. Support positive actions like moves to phase out mulesing.

    Full names required in future for reader comments please LivestockO, as per our long-standing comments policy: Editor.

  2. Glenn Phillip Nix, April 5, 2017

    To those hipsters up the page for not wearing wool, big oil thanks you, Monsanto thanks you and the Peoples Republic of China thanks you.

  3. Edward Wymer, April 1, 2017

    The tone of Trish, Amy, Paula, Craig, Jennofur and Lucy, is all to familiar from advocates of PETA — singing out of the one song book. i do not believe any of this story, up to the court case.

    No sheep owner would let their sheep be treated in this way, on the value of them alone. If he was not in the shed he would see them in the counting pens. We have not been told the names of the alleged 19 or 20 properties wHere the alleged abuse occurred. Why? Near Moyston is not a property. Or any of the owners’ or managers’ names. Why?

    Why were all the alleged shearers faces pixelated? Why was the interior of a large white marquee visible behind the catching pens, top left corner in one scene. Obviously a film set.
    I believe higher courts than Horsham Magistrates Court have been snowed in the past in wool industry cases. PETA had total revenue of US$67,034,918 in 2016 — more than an Australian dollar for every sheep in Australia. That would pay for a lot of stooges and fines.

  4. Brad Bellinger, April 1, 2017

    Shearing takes only from 3-5 minutes per sheep, so has very limited stress on the animal. Having witnessed the shearing of over 140,000 of my own sheep during the last 20 years and shearing and crutching tens of thousands myself, I can assure you that the mistreatment of sheep is a rarity. In my experience, shearers are professional athletes who work extremely hard and even not sitting the sheep in the right position on the board can make them kick and therefore make the shearer expend more energy. To purposefully hurt the sheep is just stupidity.
    I spend my life making sure that my sheep are well cared for, and making sure they are free of flies and worms, including late nights and early mornings saving mismothered lambs. They are amazing intelligent animals that can produce a magnificent fleece of wool of the finest quality and rear a lamb fit for the table. Man has realised their value for more than 6000 years.
    What does upset me is when I go to the city and see large dogs restricted in tiny backyards, cats in small apartments and goldfish swimming endlessly in tiny bowls all for the amusement of their owners.

  5. LucyP, April 1, 2017

    This is good news. Whenever animals are treated as commodities, abuse follows. Abuse is rampant in the wool industry. Full names required in future for reader comments please Lucy, as per our long-standing comments policy: Editor.

  6. Jennofur O'Connor, April 1, 2017

    Why would anyone with a conscience and knowing how much pain and suffering sheep endure for wool, wear anything made of it? So many humane options are available.

  7. Craig Shapiro, April 1, 2017

    It’s no secret how sheep are abused in the wool industry — it’s why my closet doesn’t include any item fashioned from wool. Here’s hoping this story serves notice to other shearers.

  8. Paula Renee, April 1, 2017

    Good on PETA for exposing this abuse. Every new investigation reveals that the abuse of sheep is systemic and entrenched in the wool industry. The kindest option is to choose vegan wool.

  9. Amy Donovan, April 1, 2017

    This case is not an isolated incident. Abuse runs rampant in the wool industry. Multiple eyewitness investigations have revealed how workers punch sheep in the face, hit them with electric clippers and stand on their necks. Some sheep die from the abuse. This is why I won’t wear wool.

  10. Trish Brown, March 31, 2017

    What is it with many men and women in Victoria that makes them commit cruelty on animals and birds, With the annual government-sanctified duck shoot as a prime example that this cruelty passes from one generation to the next? How small and weak-minded these people are when the have to gets their kicks out of hurting and killing innocent creatures.

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