A SOUTH Australian shearer has effectively been banned from shearing sheep or being in charge of any farm animal in Victoria for two years, after pleading guilty to four animal cruelty offences relating to shearing in a north west Victorian shearing shed three years ago.
Agriculture Victoria said 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.
He was sentenced without conviction in the Horsham Magistrates’ Court on December 5 and given an undertaking to be of good behaviour for 12 months. The shearer was also ordered to pay a $500 donation to the RSPCA, with costs of $289.12 awarded against him. He was also disqualified from being the person in charge of a farm animal for a two year period, Agriculture Victoria said in a media release.
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Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 a person in charge of an animal is defined as a person who has the animal in the person’s possession or custody, or under the person’s care, control or supervision. Agriculture Victoria senior veterinary Officer, Small Ruminants Dr Robert Suter the department’s legal advice was that the disqualification from being in charge of an animal extended to shearing sheep in Victoria, although this had not yet been tested in court.
Dr Suter said the charges resulted from investigations conducted by Agriculture Victoria Inspectors after receiving a complaint. The Agriculture Victoria investigation followed the release of video footage of shearers mistreating sheep, by the animal rights group People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
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 in sheds, 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.
Agriculture Victoria launched a full scale and detailed investigation. The investigation concluded in August 2016 resulting in seven shearers being referred for prosecution, as well as warnings to several persons identified with shearing techniques below industry standards. Further cases are to be heard in Victoria, possibly next year.
The Horsham court was told that shearing sheep is an inherently difficult and physically demanding task, however all persons have a responsibility to treat the animals under their control in a humane manner and certainly not in a cruel manner, Agriculture Victoria said.
In sentencing, Magistrate Robinson said to the accused, “I take into account that you have no criminal history, are remorseful and are now educating other people in the industry about the proper treatment of sheep. I note that the payment of $500 is commensurate with what I would have sentenced a first time accused charged with assaulting a person”.
Dr Suter said the department and the community take animal welfare seriously and this was a reminder to everyone that if offences contrary to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 are detected, they will be investigated and may result in prosecution.