Farmer charged with wilful ill-treatment of deer

6 May 2009

Yesterday a Central Hawkes Bay farmer was sentenced in the Hastings District Court for failing to maintain the welfare needs of his deer. He was fined $12,000, ordered to pay $9,181 in costs, and disqualified from owning or controlling production animals for a minimum period of 10 years. Permanent name suppression has been granted to the farmer.

A Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) Animal Welfare Investigator first visited the farmer’s property in May 2007 after a complaint about starving animals was received.

Unable to gain access to the property, initial observation from the road revealed deer and cattle in poor condition, grassless paddocks and no sign of supplementary feed. A water trough at the front of the property was also empty. The farmer was uncooperative when the investigator attempted to discuss the situation.

Subsequently Animal Welfare Investigators and a veterinarian found carcasses of 12 recently dead deer around the property and no evidence of supplementary feed being provided, resulting in starving animals. In the opinion of the vet, the situation required urgent attention as “drought, impending winter and gross overstocking would lead to many more deaths and an unacceptable amount of unnecessary animal suffering”.

The farmer was directed to remedy the animal welfare issues, by supplying feed and de-stocking his property. A follow-up visit by MAF found the defendant had not complied with the instructions and that a further 11 deer had died, leaving MAF with no choice but to intervene. This resulted in 93 adult deer being euthanased to end their suffering of pain and distress.

Despite further visits by MAF staff to assess the ongoing state of the farm and animals and discuss the situation, the defendant continued to refuse to discuss arrangements for the immediate and future welfare of his animals with MAF and veterinarians.

The farmer failed to comply with another formal instruction to provide supplementary feed and/or destock. Eventually the farmer allowed MAF personnel to remove all stock from the property, which was undertaken immediately.

MAF Investigations Manager Mr Greg Reid said the scale and severity of the animal welfare situation arose from a total lack of stock management by the farmer over an extended period of time. “While the drought that the Hawke’s Bay region was subject to at the time exacerbated the problem the deer and cattle on the property were continuing to die of starvation because of the defendant’s refusal to take simple steps to meet their basic needs.”

“The Animal Welfare Act 1999 places a duty of care on everyone who owns or is in charge of animals to prevent pain, suffering and distress. In this case the defendant not only demonstrated an unacceptable attitude with respect to the animals in his care, he has also failed to act, with devastating consequences. It is clear that he is not fit to farm and so it is a relief that he has been disqualified from farming.”

Media Contact:

Lisa Gibbison
Communications Advisor
MAF Biosecurity New Zealand
Ph: 04 894 0432
Mobile: 029 894 0432

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