MAF Finds No Grounds for Prosecution on Lamb Death Cases

4 September 1998

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has decided there are no grounds to take prosecutions in relation to two separate cases involving deaths of lambs during transport which occurred in February this year.

The MAF Regulatory Authority Enforcement Unit has reviewed carefully the circumstances surrounding the lamb deaths during transport in each case.

In one case, a consignment of 576 lambs was transported by road and sea transport from mid-Canterbury to Wellington for slaughter at a processing plant on the 17 February 1998. During the trip, 113 lambs died.

On the same day, a completely unrelated consignment of 519 similar lambs was transported from the Palmerston North area by road and sea transport to a processing plant in Nelson, during which 141 lambs died. The cause of death in this incident has been confirmed to be the result of heat exhaustion. While also suspected in the other incident, this had not been confirmed.

The owners of the road transport vehicles and ships involved in each consignment were not the same.

MAF Quality Management investigated both incidents fully and presented the investigation files to the MAF Regulatory Authority Enforcement Unit for a decision on the appropriate outcome.

MAF Enforcement Unit head, Jockey Jensen said clearly both incidents should not have occurred, but a review of the facts clearly showed no causative criminal link could be attributed to any person involved in the transportation of the animals. Rather, he said, it was an amalgamation of extenuating circumstances from the time the sheep were uplifted until their resulting death.

"These two incidents can best be described as a tragic guardianship accident."

Not withstanding the recommendation not to prosecute, Mr Jensen said his office would recommend that MAF Quality Management Animal Welfare Service follow up with those involved to ensure a similar incident did not occur in the future.

Media inquiries to:

Jockey Jensen, MAF Regulatory Authority Enforcement Unit 09-357 6472

Contact MPI

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0800 00 83 33