Livestock and live export agents Roberts Limited, and its southern livestock manager William John Denholm, will appear in the Hobart Magistrates Court next Monday and Tuesday (March 16 and 17) for hearing of cruelty charges over practices at the Bridgewater Saleyard. Each is charged under Sections 7 and 8 of the Animal Welfare Act, namely management of animal reasonably likely to result in pain or suffering, and doing an act which caused suffering to an animal.

Animal Welfare Act) over 32 lambs left in a concrete sale pen overnight at its Bridgewater Saleyard was thrown out of court by magistrate Michael Hill after two other magistrates had disqualified themselves from hearing the matter. The matter was thrown out because then RSPCA Chief Animal Welfare Officer Graeme Lewis failed to prove that Roberts was responsible for the lambs. A transporter, Robert Ervine, was subsequently convicted of cruelty over that incident, after claiming that he could not drive back to collect them because he had “sore eyes”. No penalty was imposed because Ervine claimed to be a “pensioner”, despite owning a farm and a livestock transporting business. Ervine demonstrated no insight, stating that animals are kept on concrete “all the time at shows”.

StopTAC says that it has lodged multiple complaints with the Animal Welfare Unit at DPIW, and has yet to receive a response of any kind.

Spokesperson Suzanne Cass said:

“We have unable to elicit even a reply to any concerns raised with DPIW, but have been extraordinarily fortunate that a police officer, whose role is not to deal with animal welfare and cruelty matters, has stepped in and addressed these issues.

“While we welcome changes to the Animal Welfare Act  which more clearlydefine “Duty of Care” and provide for higher penalities, the review is only as worthwhile as the Act’s enforcement – and our experiences to date are not promising. We cannot get the Animal Welfare Unit to respond to complaints, and magistrates never applied the penalties contained the old Act. This needs to change dramatically so that animal abuse is treated with the seriousness it deserves.

“We just wonder how serious it has to get for an example to be made in cases of such cruelty and neglect”, Ms Cass concluded.

The charges relate to 34 sheep who were confined in a rear pen at the saleyard for six days with no food.

 StopTAC spokesperson Suzanne Cass said:-

“These charges were laid in February 2008, after the sheep were left over from a Monday sale. We found them in a sale pen at the back of the saleyard, and watched for days as they remained there without any food. We finally sought the help of the Police”.

“There have been subsequent similar instances, as recently as last October, when we found sheep in a bare paddock outside the saleyard who were so ill and weak they could not even stand. We had to call for Police assistance then too.

“Animals are frequently not picked up from the saleyard on the same day.  As recently as last Wednesday, a transporter was picking up animals the next afternoon, and in a small saleyard the size of Bridgewater there doesn’t seem to be any excuse for that. These animals are subjected to unreasonable‘curfews’ (denial of food and water) before and during transport, and we have no way of knowing how far they are to be transported from the saleyard. Some may be going interstate, sent all that way for slaughter, and there doesn’t seem to be any excuse for that either”.

Roberts Limited has a history of such matters before the courts. Roberts and its state livestock manager, Christopher Taylor, were charged and convicted of cruelty offences in 2002 concerning a failure to provide treatment to injured cattle (including forcing a heifer to walk, and transporting her, with a broken leg) at its saleyard at Powranna.