High Court Dismisses Vexma/Fertex Appeal

13 March, 1998

The High Court in Hamilton has upheld convictions against the director of a company convicted in 1996 of five charges under the Animals Protection Act 1960.

The original charges were brought by the then Ministry of Agriculture against Robert James Pickering. They relate to the trial of unlicensed injectable zinc oxide-based products known as Vexma and Fertex - purported to be remedies for facial eczema - without the necessary Code of Ethical Conduct.

The Animals Protection Act states:

"No person shall...conduct any research, experimental, diagnostic, toxicity or potency work involving the manipulation* (see below) of any live animal, unless that work or teaching is carried out in accordance with a code of ethical conduct relating to the welfare and humane treatment of the live animals involved."

In dismissing the appeal to the High Court, Justice Hammond stated in his Judgment that the District Court had heard that Mr Pickering, by his own admission, had injected about 140 cattle and 25 sheep on four farms. These injections had "very unfortunate results", and, according to an expert scientific witness at the time of the District Court trial, the resultant substantial lesions which formed would have caused real discomfort to the animals.

"Hence this appellant knowingly experimented with a product base which had a known history of bad side effects," Justice Hammond said in his Judgment. "...the evidence was overwhelming and incontrovertible that abscesses - in some cases up to the size of a rugby ball - developed on the animals, and ulcerated, and that there was pain and distress for animals."

Justice Hammond also stated that Mr Pickering was on legal aid, but if he had not been, his Honour would have awarded substantial costs against him.

Mr Pickering was sentenced to 100 hours community service at the time of his original conviction.

*Manipulation is defined in Regulation 2 and Section 20 of the Animals Protection Act 1960 as:

...in relation to any live animals, ...interfering with the normal physiological, behavioral, or anatomical integrity of the animals by deliberately -

  1. Exposing it to any parasite, micro-organism, drug, chemical, biological product, radiation, electrical stimulation, or environmental condition;
  2. Subjecting it to enforced activity, unusual restraint, abnormal nutrition, or surgical intervention;
  3. Depriving it of usual care; -

but does not include any therapy or prophylaxis necessary or desirable for the welfare of the animals.

Media inquiries to:

Dr David Bayvel, National Manager, Animal Welfare & Environment, (04) 474 4251
Debbie Gee, Director, Corporate Communications (04) 474 4258

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