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NZ Court Finds Farmer Guilty Of Ill-treating Animals In Rodeonaz

The Whangarei District Court found Northland farmer Derek Robinson guilty of ill-treating rodeo animals after he used a live electric prodder on two distressed steers. The Court also found that Mr Robinson used his prodder unnecessarily on 22 other rodeo animals, including calves, although in those cases the Court could not be certain whether the prodder was turned on, and gave Mr Robinson the benefit of the doubt.

Mr Robinson is a dairy and cattle farmer from Matakohe, Northland. The offences took place at the Mid-Northern Rodeo near Whangarei in two separate events, one in 2016 and the other in 2017.

The two events for which Mr Robinson was found guilty involved steers who were used for a team roping competition. While waiting in the chute, the animals became too distressed to take part in the rodeo, and knelt down on the ground in anxiety. Both animals had no room to move away and did not react to the actions of rodeo cowboys who tried to get them up, using manual methods. The Rodeo Code of Welfare requires that animals in this situation must be released by opening the gate. Instead of doing so, Mr Robinson shocked the animals with a charged electric prodder, which jolted the animals and caused them to stand up in pain. They were then sent into the arena and chased by two cowboys on horses.

The charges against Mr Robinson were filed as a private prosecution by the New Zealand Animal Law Association. This private prosecution was the first ever rodeo prosecution in New Zealand. The offences were reported at the time to MPI after a Checkpoint story on RNZ. An MPI inspector investigated the incidents and recommended a prosecution against Mr Robinson, however MPI officials decided against the recommendation and issued a warning letter to Mr Robinson.

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NZALA’s evidence shows that MPI’s existing reluctance to prosecute rodeo offences had created a false sense of immunity amongst rodeo cowboys like Mr Robinson. NZALA says this prosecution and the guidance provided by the Court with regards to the use of prodders in rodeos opens the way for MPI enforce the Rodeo Code through the courts. The Association said its lawyer-members will continue to work with the Ministry to ensure that the Ministry’s statutory obligations are upheld.

Mr Robinson will be sentenced in the Whangarei District Court in the coming months.

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