Four shearers have pleaded guilty to animal cruelty offences committed in Victorian sheep sheds in 2013 and 2014, after Agriculture Victoria obtained around 300 hours of video footage.
The four men faced a combined total of 60 charges in Horsham Magistrates Court on February 27, as three Victorian men aged 24, 40 and 61, and a South Australian man, aged 49, all faced the magistrate in separate cases of beating and abusing sheep while shearing.
In spring 2013, two individuals obtained work with shearing contractors as rouseabouts in shearing sheds across NSW, South Australia and Victoria.
The individuals, fitted with video cameras, documented what they described as cruel shearing practices.
On July 9, 2014, simultaneous complaints were lodged with Victorian, NSW and South Australian authorities and an edited video package was posted to YouTube.
Agriculture Victoria launched a full-scale investigation into the Victorian incidents, with the investigation concluding in August 2016. Seven shearers were referred for prosecution and warnings issued to several persons identified with shearing techniques below industry standards.
The court was told that shearing sheep is an inherently difficult and physically demanding task, but that all persons have a responsibility to treat animals under their control in a humane manner.
The magistrate said the behaviour of the men was ‘‘confronting and offensive’’ and ‘‘very serious’’ and while he understood the environment of a shearing shed was ‘‘busy, hot’’ and ‘‘difficult’’, the behaviour of the accused was unacceptable.
Agriculture Victoria’s senior veterinary officer Dr Robert Suter said the community, the government and the courts take animal welfare very seriously.
‘‘This is a reminder to everyone that allegations into cruelty will be investigated and offences contrary to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 will result in a regulatory outcome, including prosecution,’’ Dr Suter said.
The four men will face the magistrate on March 31 for sentencing.
The three other cases investigated were:
■ A fifth man, aged 59 from Victoria, who will face court on 4 May 2017.
■ In December 2016, a South Australian man, aged 60, appeared in the Horsham Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty to abusing sheep whilst shearing. He was sentenced without conviction and given an undertaking to be of good behaviour for 12 months and ordered to pay a $500 donation to RSPCA with costs of $289. He was also disqualified from being the person in charge of a farm animal for a two year period.
■ A seventh man is yet to face court.