Farmer admits serious animal cruelty charges

By Michelle Nelson of the Ashburton Guardian

Photo / David White
Photo / David White

A Mid Canterbury farmer has pleaded guilty to serious animal welfare charges.

Geoffrey Edgar Walter Deal, 61, appeared before Judge Joanna Maze in the Ashburton District Court yesterday to face nine counts laid under the Animal Welfare Act, for failing to meet adequate standards of care and ill treatment of his dairy cattle, and refusing to comply with animal welfare inspectors.

The court was told a national dairy co-operative was notified of serious problems on Deal's property in the Eiffelton district, on November 2010 and May 2011.

A dairy industry organisation was involved and following an inspection, described Deal's stock as in poor to very poor condition. The farm was lacking in basic infrastructure, drinking water supply was inadequate, and calves on the property were malnourished and stunted.

A plan was put in place but Deal made little effort to remedy the situation. In June 2011 the matter was referred to the former Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. A subsequent vet inspection found the body weight of 70 per cent of the cows to be well below minimum standards - up to 100kg underweight. The vet diagnosed starvation and trace element deficiency.

MAF contracted a farm consultant to provide professional assistance. However Deal was hostile and unreceptive to the advice offered, and a mandatory directive stipulating feed requirements was issued.

By mid-July concerns were raised that some animals would not survive calving. Two vets, Federated Farmers representatives and another vet called in by Deal assessed the cattle, and decided that 92 should be culled - euthanized or sold to meat works. A decision was made to shoot two immediately to end their suffering. Post mortems on both showed evidence of severe malnutrition and parasite infestation.

Arrangements were put in place to transport the animals to a nearby processing plant within seven days; twice Deal thwarted plans to slaughter the cows, breaching notices to do so.

With the welfare of the animals in jeopardy, court order was gained by MAF, forcing Deal to dispose of 122 of the remaining cattle, the majority being sold and put on new grazing.

Deal was described as obstructive, uncooperative, threatening and belligerent throughout his dealings with the Ministry of Primary Industries.

The ministry is seeking to recover $16,587 for veterinary services and burial costs.

Judge Maze convicted Deal on all matters, and ordered a pre-sentence report, including community detention appendices, for Deal's sentencing date on October 29.

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