Farmer oblivious to pain and suffering of dehorned cattle

15 April 2008

A Marlborough farmer was sentenced today and must pay a fine of $6500, and was ordered to pay investigation and court costs of $715.60 in the Blenheim District Court for the illegal dehorning of his cattle.

Murray Beach removed the horns of 54 cattle aged around 20 months using a pair of loppers. No pain relief was given prior, during or after the horn removal and no measures were taken to restrict blood loss or prevent infection. The defendant admitted that it was a spur of the moment decision and that a vet was not present.

A Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) Animal Welfare Investigator noticed dried blood on the head and shoulders of cows while visiting the property in May 2007. He estimated that de horning had occurred within the last two to five days.

MAF’s Investigations Manager, Greg Reid, said that when the defendant was advised that dehorning cattle over the age of nine months without pain relief was an offence, his response was to order the MAF investigator off the property. When the investigator returned later that day with a police officer he tried to prevent them entering the property.

In his defence Beach stated he dehorned the cattle partly as a result of a complaint from the woman that recently purchased 16 of his cattle, partly because the truck drivers don’t like transporting cows with horns and partly because cattle with horns must have the horns inside the length of the ears for slaughter.

While Mr Beach described the level of pain as “less than cutting of a lamb’s tail with a searing iron” in the opinion of the investigating veterinarian the cows would have experienced intense pain, suffering and distress at the time of dehorning and for several hours afterwards.

“The Animal Welfare (painful husbandry procedures) Code of Welfare 2005 is clear - de horning without pain relief must be performed when animals are as young as possible, and before they reach nine months of age. Dehorning is painful, but until such time as pain relief can be made compulsory the code states that it must be used for animals over nine months.”

“This promotes best practice and is part of the evolution towards greater use of pain relief for painful procedures such as dehorning. In this case the defendant has responded appropriately to the prime reason for removing horns, particularly for transport, he has however not sought veterinary assistance in dehorning and shown no regard for the pain and suffering of his animals – this is simply unacceptable”, Mr Reid said.

Media Contact :
Greg Reid, Manager Investigations, MAF Biosecurity New Zealand
Phone: 029-909 3544

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