A Victorian farmer has been fined $60,000 and banned for 10 years from owning or being a person in charge of any farm animal.
Appearing in the Ballarat Magistrate's Court last week, Graeme Hodge, from the Buloke shire, pleaded guilty to 24 charges of animal cruelty, including several of aggravated cruelty, leading to the death or serious disablement of numerous cattle in his care. The period of offending stretched from 2019 to 2020.
Mr Hodge had been subject to criminal proceedings in 2018 for similar offending, for which he had a conditional Control Order imposed for a period of five years under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.
Agriculture Victoria compliance manager Daniel Bode said Mr Hodge owned a number of herds of mixed cattle on several properties and locations within the Buloke Shire.
Negligible record keeping and lack of Property Identification Codes plus incorrect or no NLIS traceability of the cattle, all contributed to the difficulty of investigating the circumstances of this case.
Many of the cattle were observed in poor condition and without access to proper and sufficient food, resulting in severe malnutrition and extremely low body condition.
The accused also failed to obtain veterinary care for several acutely ill cows which subsequently had to be euthanised.
Mr Hodge was also charged with several offences in relation to hindering and obstructing officers.
In addition to the 10-year disqualification order, Mr Hodge was fined $60,000, and placed on a two-year community correction order.
Mr Bode said Agriculture Victoria has zero tolerance to staff being obstructed, threatened or hindered in the course of their duties.
"The weight of the 10-year disqualification order is significant and will ensure that animals are protected from further pain and suffering at the hands of the accused," he said.
"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 added the dedication and professionalism of the Agriculture Victoria officers and the outstanding investigative work was fundamental in ensuring a conclusive result.
"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," he said.
"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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