Farmer ignores ban and lets his cows starve
19 November 2007
A Whangarei farmer banned from owning bovine animals for two years was today sentenced to 400 hours community service and ordered to pay $20,000 costs for contravening a 2005 Court Order issued for three previous offences relating to starving cows. His wife was convicted and discharged after pleading guilty to failing to attend to the physical and welfare needs of Cattle.
Alan and Narcisa Summers appeared in the Whangarei District Court today, on charges relating to contravening a Court Order, wilfully obstructing or hindering an inspector and the failure to attend to the physical welfare needs and health of cows. Their son Lee Summers also faces charges relating to failing to provide details to an inspector, and will appear at a later date.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's (MAF) Animal Welfare Investigation Team began investigating the defendant in September 2006 after receiving information that he was farming. On a visit to the farm an inspector noted very poor grass cover, and emaciated and underfed cattle and a dead cow lying in a drain.
A second visit to the farm in October 2006 found cattle in the milking shed in generally poor condition, three were in very poor condition and several had lice on their necks. When a vet and farm consultant began to examine the animals the defendant rounded them up and took them away, refusing to co-operate or provide the inspectors with any information.
Further inspection of the property uncovered a number of pregnant cows in poor condition with very poor quality pasture that was grossly insufficient for their dietary requirements. A vet noted that the recently 'chewed down' paddock indicated the cow's level of hunger.
An investigation was undertaken to establish whether Summers was running his farm, in contravention of the Court Order. The investigator observed him working on the farm, milking and controlling stock. Statements provided by neighbours confirmed that the defendant was still farming.
On 25 October 2006 a warrant was executed on the Summers' property by MAF. Among the property and correspondence seized were letters in the defendant's handwriting clearly showing he was running the farm.
MAF's Animal Welfare Investigations Manager, Greg Reid, said that this was one of the worst cases of repeat offending he had seen.
"Not only did the defendant willfully ignore a court order and continue to farm as if nothing had happened, his family supported his actions and together they let the cattle starve."
"I am pleased that guilty pleas were entered. The Animal Welfare Act 1999 places a duty of care on everyone who owns or is in charge of an animal to prevent pain, suffering and distress. In this case the defendants had chosen to disregard the law."
- Matthew Thorpe, Communications Adviser
Phone: 0-4-894 0276 or 0-29-894 0436