Tail-breaking West Coast farmer fined $15,000 after "prolonged abuse" of dairy cows

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Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 894 0328

A West Coast dairy farmer has been fined $15,000 as a result of a tail-breaking case involving over 200 cows.

Warren Arthur McNabb appeared in the Nelson District Court today for sentencing after the case was brought to court by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

McNabb last month pleaded guilty to one charge of reckless ill-treatment of 2 dairy cows by breaking their tails and one charge of failing to ensure 210 dairy cows with broken tails received treatment.

The 58-year-old was also banned from having any involvement with milking cows for 6 months and ordered to pay court costs of $130, reparation of $1651.70 for vet fees and $250 in solicitors’ costs incurred by MPI.

The case was brought to court after MPI animal welfare inspectors and a vet carried out an inspection on McNabb's farm near Karamea in November last year.

MPI District Compliance Manager for Canterbury-Westland, Howard Reid, says the vet discovered that 210 out of 446 milking cows had broken tails and, upon further inspection, found that 20 cows had multiple breaks.

None of the cows had received veterinary treatment for their injuries.

"The vet described the scale of the breakages as being "systematic of prolonged animal abuse," says Mr Reid.

"He added that he had never seen this scale of abuse before in his professional career.

"In addition, the judge today said that experts had suggested the pain experienced by the cows was akin to having fingers broken.

"Scientific research indicates it would require significantly more force to break a tail than dislocate a finger and the breaking of a tail or twisting would cause immediate, severe pain and distress".

Mr Reid says McNabb had been under a lot of stress at the time of the abuse.

"But the sentencing judge said McNabb’s stress did not justify the maltreatment of animals.

"MPI acknowledges many farmers are under significant pressure but there is never any excuse for animal abuse."

Mr Reid says MPI refers farmers to Rural Support and offers farmers a range of other help mechanisms where the need is obvious.

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