High Court Grants Rare Civil Injunction

21 July 1998

The High Court in Hamilton has taken the unusual step of granting a civil injunction against a man previously convicted of animal welfare charges in order to prevent continuing, further or threatened breaches of the law.

Robert James Pickering was originally convicted in the Hamilton District Court on 4 October 1996 of five charges of manipulating animals without a code of ethical conduct contrary to the Animals Protection Act 1960. The charges related to the trial of unlicensed injectable zinc oxide-based products known as Vexma and Fertex - purported to be remedies for facial eczema and other ailments in sheep and cattle.

Up to, during and following Mr Pickering’s convictions, MAF continued to receive complaints about the sale and use of unlicensed animal remedies.

An approach was made on behalf of MAF by the Crown Law Office to the Attorney General for an application for an injunction to be laid against Mr Pickering in the public interest, to restrain breaches of the criminal law.

In the High Court in Hamilton on 6 July, presiding judge Justice Doogue granted the following orders by way of injunction, as sought by the Attorney General:

  1. The defendant is prohibited from manipulating animals contrary to Regulation 3 of the Animals Protection(Codes of Ethical Conduct) Regulations 1987, or being a party to such manipulations.

  2. The defendant shall not sell any unlicensed animal remedy contrary to Section 40(2) of the Animal Remedies Act 1967.

  3. The defendant shall not knowingly use any unlicensed animal remedy contrary to Section 40(5) Animal Remedies Act 1967.

The orders expire at the end of a two year term. If Mr Pickering breaches the injunction during this time, the High Court can impose a fine or imprisonment. The penalty is in at the Court’s discretion.

In his written judgment, His Honour stated, "If there were any suggestion by the defendant that he would abide by the law, there would be no need to consider the exercise of the Court’s discretion in the present case.

"The stance taken by the defendant, in his affidavit, is almost such that if the Court were to refuse the relief sought, it could only be treated by him as an indication that the Court felt that the actions being taken by him were justified, which of course they are not.

"The plaintiff has satisfied me that this is one of the rare cases where the Court should intervene because of the clear and persistent acts by the defendant, in breach of the Act and Regulations..."

"The defendant really leaves the Court little option in a case such as the present, but to grant the relief sought against him. Penalties for his offences have not deterred him. The relief sought is only to limit the defendant from taking illegal actions," Justice Doogue concluded.


As a result of the proceedings taken by the then Ministry of Agriculture (now the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry) in 1996, Mr Pickering was convicted on five charges in relation to manipulation of animals without a code of ethical conduct contrary to section 19B of the Animals Protection Act 1960.

The Animals Protection Act states:

"No person shall...conduct any research, experimental, diagnostic, toxicity or potency work involving the manipulation 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."

A subsequent appeal by Mr Pickering to the High Court against the convictions was dismissed earlier this year. His application for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal was also dismissed.

MAF continued to receive complaints and reports against Mr Pickering. It was recognised that the more that charges were laid in response to the offending, the greater the number of witnesses required, impacting on the length of time required for the trial. Given the available Court time this resulted in concern in terms of a hearing date continually being postponed.

In April 1998 an approach was made on behalf of MAF by Crown Law to the Attorney General that an action be taken against Mr Pickering in the public interest to restrain breaches of the criminal law. The proceedings asked the Court to prevent further, continued or threatened breaches of the law.

The granting of a civil injunction is rare in circumstances where criminal proceedings are still pending but in his judgment Justice Doogue noted, "The plaintiff seeks the present injunctive relief because of the previous offending, which it is said, despite conviction and appeal, is not really acknowledged by the defendant as offending; and because of the further acts in respect of which the defendant faces charges, and the defendant’s stance that he should be entitled to continue to use and supply Fertex."

Media inquiries to:

Debbie Gee, Director | Corporate Communications | Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry | 04-474 4258



Last Updated: 09 September 2010

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