An accusation of blackmail by the “whistleblower” and main prosecution witness has been made at the Christchurch trial of a dairy farm manager accused of cow ill-treatment.
Twenty-nine-year-old Carl Ryan McNaught attacked the credibility the witness who gave evidence on Tuesday, Kelly Ann D’Esposito, also known as Kelly Ann Simpson, when he gave evidence in his own defence.
During her evidence, she had admitted threatening to kill McNaught because of what she said was his ill-treatment of the cows.
McNaught faces four charges of animal ill-treatment when he managed a farm near Hororata in 2015, with allegations that he broke cows’ tails, bashed, kicked and punched cows, deliberately ran over a calf with a quad bike, and failed to treat injured animals.
The allegations were made by D’Esposito to the Ministry of Primary Industries after she quit her job at the farm after working there for three weeks in 2015. She told the Christchurch District Court trial before Judge David Saunders that she had seen McNaught twist and break two tails, beat a cow with a steel bar, and run down a calf with a quad bike, breaking its leg. The calf had to be euthanised.
McNaught admitted in evidence that he had thrown a bar at a cow that was trying to kick him and another farm worker. He said he had accidentally struck the calf with the quad bike.
He admitted he had yelled and sworn at the cows, and that he had kicked a cow twice in the rump – without injuring it – but he denied breaking tails. He said everyone he had worked with in the dairy industry had “handled” tails to manage cows.
He said that when she was resigning, D’Esposito had said she had taken photographs and videos.
“She said if I was to pay her $10,000 she would sign a non-disclosure agreement and it would all disappear,” McNaught told the second day of the trial. The witness had denied that allegation in her evidence on Tuesday.
Cross-examined by MPI prosecutor Grant Fletcher, he admitted that he had said in a recorded conversation that he “put the cows in their place”.
“And when you put cows in their place, you break their tails,” Mr Fletcher said.
McNaught denied it. “I have kicked the odd one, but breaking their tails is a whole other level,” he said. “I openly admit I lose my temper, but I know what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable.”
Questioned by Judge Saunders, he accepted evidence from farm workers that he sometimes “flipped”.
“I have flipped,” he said. “I have had a temper. I have got frustrated quickly in certain circumstances. It is just the pressure of what we were facing on that farm.”
He accepted that more than 40 cows with tail breaks less than six weeks old had been found in the herd by veterinarians. He had no idea how the tails were broken.
He also said that a significant number of cows had older tail breaks when he had begun work on the farm. “It clearly seems that these cows had had a rough time in the past,” he said.
Evidence had been given that the herd had earlier been expanded with cows purchased from other farms.
The trial was told by MPI witnesses that the farm was well run and the herd was in good condition.
Judge Saunders reserved his decision and plans to give it on Friday morning.