A Northland farmer of "great character" convicted of using a live electric prodder on two distressed steers at a rodeo was an example of "good people" breaking the law, a judge has found.
Derek Robinson, 75, a successful Matakohe dairy and cattle farmer, was fined $850 plus $130 court costs - a total of $1960 - for each of the two offences of ill-treating animals at rodeo events.
Robinson committed the offences at the Mid-Northern Rodeo in two separate incidents in 2016 and the following year.
In the Whangārei District Court on Friday, Judge John McDonald accepted Robinson as a "hardworking, honest, ready to help" person as described in the 18 submitted references, which included three from veterinarians.
"Each spoke highly of the animal welfare on your farms," Judge McDonald said.
However, it was made clear by Judge McDonald those qualities would not detract from Robinson's low to moderate offending that showed a lack of knowledge and consideration for the Rodeo Code of Welfare.
"I found you take a particularly cavalier attitude towards your obligations under the code," Judge McDonald said. "You took a prodder with you on each of the days. No-one else did. I'm still at a loss to why you would have done that."
The Rodeo Code of Welfare was written by the Rodeo Cowboys Association and Ministry for Primary Industries to inform owners and persons in charge of rodeo animals about the mandatory standards required to meet their obligations under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
The New Zealand Animal Law Association (NZALA) called for Robinson to be banned from contributing to the organising of rodeo.
But Judge McDonald found it unnecessary as Robinson had told the court in a sworn affidavit that he had ceased his rodeo activities following the filing of criminal charges against him in 2018.
The cutting of ties with the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys' Association was mutual.
Lyal Cocks, the association's president, said Robinson's behaviour was totally unacceptable.
"It's totally unacceptable anywhere, it's totally unacceptable in the rodeo industry. He's no longer a member of either the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys' Association or the Mid Northern Rodeo Association."
The two events for which Robinson was found guilty involved steers used for a team roping competition.
While waiting in the chute, the animals became distressed and knelt down on the ground.
Both animals had no room to move away and did not react when rodeo cowboys tried to get them up using manual methods. The Rodeo Code of Welfare requires that animals in such situations must be released by opening the gate.
Instead, Robinson shocked the animals with a charged electric prodder, which jolted them and caused them to stand up in pain. They were then sent into the arena and chased by two cowboys on horses.
Robinson previously told the court, during a four day hearing, he was concerned the steers would be hurt if the gates opened so used the prodders to get them moving.
Judge McDonald rejected this notion and said Robinson, instead, wanted to keep the show going.
"It was the need to keep the event exciting for the spectators," he said.
Animal activists caught the offences on camera and reported them to the Ministry for Primary Industries.
A MPI investigator recommended Robinson be prosecuted but ministry officials decided against that and issued a warning letter to him instead.
The video footage was supplied to NZALA, which obtained investigation information from MPI via an Official Information Act request. NZALA then filed charges against Robinson under the Animal Welfare Act in 2018.
Robinson was convicted on two charges and acquitted of a further 22 charges related to the use of his electric prodder on cattle - including calves - because prosecutors could not proved beyond reasonable doubt the prodder was live during the acts.