Two men accused of wilfully ill-treating wild goats are defending the charge based on a section of the Animal Welfare Act that has since been repealed.
An SPCA prosecution against Richard Hamilton McKee, 34, and James Robert Boydey Manukau, 27, continued in Gisborne District Court yesterday after being adjourned part-heard a month ago.
The two were charged after the SPCA received complaints about graphic footage on their Facebook pages.
The organisation alleges that sometime between August 27 and September 20, 2013, McKee and Manukau wilfully ill-treated a brown goat in the Waimata Valley, causing its death.
The charge alleges that alternatively, they encouraged, aided or assisted in the baiting of the goat by encouraging their dogs to attack it.
McKee faces a further two similar charges in respect of a separate incident involving a white goat, also at Waimata, on or about August 27.
Defence lawyers Bryony Shackell and Heather Vaughn for McKee and Tony Robinson for Manukau contended the men were legitimately hunting for food and training dogs to hunt -- an accepted part of hunting. They were therefore covered by Section 175 of the Animal Welfare Act which, although repealed in May this year, was still law at the time of the alleged offending.
It essentially allowed anyone to hunt and kill any wild animal in a wild state by any means -- a view refuted by prosecutor Leighvi Maynard, who said Parliament would not have intended such an open-slather interpretation.
There had to be some accountability by hunters and humane behaviour.
McKee admitted posting a five-minute clip on Facebook showing him astride a white goat, encouraging three dogs to maul its face and throat, then hacking its throat with what appeared to be a blunt knife. He has never revealed who filmed it.
Manukau posted three clips he filmed of an incident in which his dog Prime caught a brown goat by the leg, with McKee in on the chase. McKee is then seen dragging the goat by the horns to Manukau who continued filming as he dragged it along a track by its broken leg.
McKee returned the older dog to their vehicle and released three young pups, which mauled the brown goat about the head until it appeared to die, about 71 seconds after filming began.
Expert witnesses on hunting called earlier by the prosecution said the activities were not acceptable hunting practice. The goats should have been dispatched as quickly as possible after capture.
An expert veterinary medicine witness said both goats would have suffered enormous pain and trauma.
But Joshua Kauta, an expert witness on hunting called by the defence said he believed the pair was legitimately attempting to train their dogs, albeit it by unnecessary means.
Such ill-practice was more common now and education was needed, which was why he set up a training school for hunters.
Mr Kauta said he would have got "a clip around the ear" had he ever trained his dogs that way.
Mr Robinson said Manukau did little more than film the activity involving the brown goat. His dog Prime had been involved in the only aspect of that incident that the experts agreed was hunting.
It was McKee's pups that mauled the goat.
The court was shown the SPCA's video interviews with the men.
In his interview McKee said he was remorseful. The prosecution made him realise the goats suffered. He was uncomfortable watching the clips and had been put off hunting.
It was not his intention to cause suffering.
"I just thought when I saw (the goat) that's dog food right there. I should have killed it right then but I wanted to give my dogs some experience of a live animal."
In his interview, Manukau said that having watched the videos repeatedly he no longer believed the pair's approach to dog training was acceptable.
Asked why he dragged the brown goat by its broken leg rather than the leg that wasn't obviously broken, he said "I don't know. I shouldn't have. I just grabbed it. I didn't think about that. I thought it was going to die anyway - actually we didn't know until we got it up the top (that the leg was broken)."
He filmed the incident because, "we've had a lot of fun over the hunting period and I just want people to see what we do".
Manukau, who is unemployed, said "since we've been done, we haven't been hunting at all. The dogs are getting a bit skinny".
The case is proceeding.