Guilty verdicts in tail breaking trial

Canterbury farmer Carl Ryan McNaught has been urged to get anger management counselling before his sentencing on cow ill-treatment charges in February, or face possible prison or disqualification from farming animals.

The advice was clear from the Ministry of Primary Industries and Christchurch District Court Judge David Saunders as 29-year-old McNaught was convicted on three charges after his judge-alone trial.

MPI prosecutor Grant Fletcher sought a long remand before sentence to give McNaught a chance to arrange counselling for anger management and stock management techniques.

He said that steps taken by another farmer in another recent case had affected the judge’s decision on whether to impose a ban on the offender having management of animals in years to come.

Judge Saunders went even further, telling McNaught that a jail term would be considered and strongest thing he could do ahead of sentencing was to get counselling about anger management, temper, and self-control.

He remanded McNaught to February 20 for sentencing and asked for a pre-sentence report which will assess his suitability for a home detention or community detention sentence. He was remanded at large – no bail bond was required.

“Whatever you do between now and sentencing will be taken into account, and that will include whether a disqualification order is required,” said the judge.

Veterinary inspections found that between 41 and 47 cows on the farm McNaught managed at Hororata in 2015 had tails that had been broken within the last six weeks.

Judge Saunders ruled in his reserved decision given today: “I am unable to accept the defendant’s evidence that on the occasions he took hold of a tail to effect a change of direction or to guide the cow, that he only applied minimum force.”

After the judge’s decision, MPI animal welfare inspector Gary Dixon commented: “The case sends a message that tail breaking in the industry is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated by the Ministry.”

McNaught had denied charges involving tail breaking, punching and kicking cows, and striking one with a metal bar, and also recklessly ill-treating a calf by running it down with a quad bike.

Judge Saunders said there had been a credible and coherent description of what happened when the calf was run over and he could not find that McNaught deliberately ran it down. That charge was dismissed.

The judge found two other charges proved alleging that McNaught had tipped dairy cows onto the ground, kicked, punched them, or struck one of them with a metal bar, and that he was responsible for breaking the tails of some cows.

He was also convicted of failing to provide treatment to alleviate pain and distress for the cows with broken tails.

The trial was told that the dairy herd was well fed and the farm was well managed, but staff told of seeing McNaught mistreating the animals. One of the staff reported her concerns to the MPI.

McNaught accepted that he had a temper and had kicked or struck animals, but denied that he had caused any injury and he denied breaking the tails.

Judge Saunders said it was accepted that the violence arose from frustrations and the stress that he was working under on the farm at that time.

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