Dairy farmer obstructs MAF inspector

7 April 2008

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) Animal Welfare Investigation Team welcomed the conviction handed down in the Palmerston North District Court last week for the obstruction and hindering of an animal welfare inspector whilst performing his duties.

Robert McVitty, a dairy farmer with numerous properties around the Manawatu pleaded guilty just prior to the start of a defended hearing. The charge related to an incident on Mr McVitty's Mangawhata Road property in June 2006. McVitty who has a prior conviction for assault was fined $1000 and ordered to pay investigation costs of $762.50 and solicitors costs of $500.

A MAF Animal Welfare Investigator followed a vehicle transporting a mature Friesian cow lying unrestrained in a sternally recumbant position across a trailer with sides only 25cm high. The investigator followed the cow and vehicle over 10kms on several country roads noting the cow's continued attempts to get up and off the trailer. The cow had its head hanging out over the right hand side of the trailer facing oncoming traffic. It became obvious to the inspector that due to illness or injury the cow could not get up.

The vehicle eventually pulled into a paddock at the Mangawhata Road property of Robert McVitty and the MAF investigator spoke with McVitty's farm workers who had transported the cow.

The investigator sought the services of a veterinarian to inspect the cow to ascertain whether the cow should have been transported in such a manner. Prior to the workers leaving the scene the MAF investigator sought to ascertain the whereabouts of the owner of the cow.

Unknown to the investigator, the owner, Robert McVitty was at his house

The first the investigator knew of McVitty's presence was being approached directly by an angry farmer with a closed, loaded, single barrelled shotgun. McVitty's silence made the investigator extremely anxious about his safety. McVitty then stormed directly past the investigator and in a deliberate and wilful act of rage shot the cow despite the investigator's protestations. Defendant McVitty then stated "well it's dead now. It's all over and you can get off my property you're trespassing". He further stated that a vet was not welcome either.

In spite of being advised of the investigator's legal right to be on the property, the defendant continued his intimidation of the investigator when the vet arrived. McVitty refused to allow the investigator to close his vehicle door when attempting to have a private briefing with the veterinarian and then purposely blocked the investigators exit with a large tractor.

In a final act of intimidation the defendant also made threats to the veterinarian, warning him that he would regret testifying against him in court.

MAF Investigations Manager, Greg Reid said this was a disturbing case.

"It is the statutory duty of my investigators to investigate animal welfare incidents and they should be able to carry out their duties without this shocking behaviour on the part of the farmer. My staff work on their own and often in isolated localities.

"This defendant brings no credit whatsoever on the farming community and I hope they denounce this cowardly and unjustified behaviour. Fortunately this type of behaviour tends to be foreign to the vast majority of farmers we have dealings with in the course of our work."

Media Contact:

Greg Reid | Investigations Manager | MAF Biosecurity New Zealand | Phone: 029-909 3544

Contact MPI

for general enquiries phone

0800 00 83 33