Gippsland farmer guilty of animal cruelty

Agriculture Victoria has welcomed the guilty verdict for a farmer from Walkerville, who has been fined $50,000 and banned for 10 years from owning any farm animal or being a person in charge of any farm animal.

Jeremy Rich was convicted over 16 charges, including one of aggravated cruelty, following the death of numerous sheep in his care.

The Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court heard the charges related to a large outbreak of flystrike and gastrointestinal parasitism in a flock of more than 2300 sheep at Mr Rich’s property between March and April 2020.

Agriculture Victoria officers first attended the property in early March 2020 in response to a complaint concerning sick and dying sheep.

Officers then attended on a further nine separate occasions and issued several Notices to Comply.

Over this time, numerous sheep with flystrike were observed, three were humanely euthanised by officers and 41 recently deceased sheep were recorded.

Agriculture Victoria Compliance Manager, Daniel Bode, said despite receiving numerous Notices to Comply, insufficient action was taken by Mr Rich.

A significant number of sheep died and were either scavenged, partially eaten, removed or buried in a large pit.

Magistrate Tony Burns declared the accused prioritised finances over the welfare of the animals, which led to them experiencing significant suffering.

Mr Bode said the weight of the 10-year disqualification order is substantial and will ensure that animals are protected from further pain and suffering.

“It sends a very clear message that those who continually commit offences against animals should not have the privilege and opportunity to care for them in the future,” Mr Bode said.

“Apart from the obvious pain and suffering of the animals, animal welfare breaches can jeopardise Victoria’s reputation as a humane and responsible producer of food, which can, in turn, affect all producers.

“This is a reminder to all livestock producers that animal cruelty will not be tolerated by the Victorian Government or our community.”

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