Ballarat livestock agent pleads guilty to animal cruelty

BALLARAT livestock agent Micheal Treweek was given a 12-month good behaviour bond and fined $500, without conviction, for animal cruelty last month. 

At the December court hearing, Treweek pleaded guilty to two charges, including an omit act likely to cause pain or suffering to an animal and wounding an animal. 

Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) prosecutor Adrian Serratore said Treweek inflicted pain and caused suffering to sheep at the Ballarat saleyards on two separate occasions in 2011 and 2012. 

Mr Serratore said a lamb with a broken leg was found under the care of Treweek in October 2011. 

In court, Treweek admitted to being in charge of the lamb and loading it into his trailer knowing the animal had a broken leg without providing veterinary attention or treatment to the animal. 

He told The Courier yesterday he had put the lamb in the trailer, where it was found.

“It would have gotten trampled in the stalls if I had left it there, so I put it in the back of my trailer, so it wouldn’t get trampled,” Treweek said. 

“If it happened now, I would’ve had it put down straight away, but it’s difficult even then when it was happening at 5am.” 

The court was told that in May 2012, DEPI officers saw a sheep with one ear at the saleyards. Treweek admitted he was in charge of the sheep. He said he removed the ear because it had a cancerous growth.

"If I knew what I know now, I wouldn’t have done what I did"

Treweek told The Courier he believed at the time that what he was doing was in the best interest of the animals. 

“If I knew what I know now, I wouldn’t have done what I did,” Mr Treweek said. 

The magistrate said it was important to work lawfully with animals, particularly in public places, and the need for prompt and appropriate action to alleviate pain and distress where livestock are injured or suffering. 

Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986, livestock transporters, agents, owners and managers have a legal obligation to ensure that appropriate welfare standards are maintained for animals in their care or charge.

DEPI south-west Victoria regional animal health officer Leon Watt said all people had a responsibility when they took possession of an animal. 

“In the saleyards, the producer has a responsibility for fit and healthy stock, then the transporter has the responsibility, then the stock agent, then the truck driver again,” he said.

“Custody changes of the animal and so does the responsibility.”

Mr Watt said it was unreasonable to expect animals never to get injured, but it was important the custodian recognised the pain it was in. 

He said because of the great number of animals that go through the saleyards, they could be more vulnerable to injury and cruelty.

“That’s why systems are in place,” he said. 

“Everyone needs to provide their best care and this case highlights that.

“Stock agents are not immune to providing care. No one is immune.”

Animal activist reported incident

BALLARAT animal activist Stephanie Dyer filmed an injured lamb under stock agent Michael Treweek's care on the back of his truck before raising the incident with DEPI.

Ms Dyer frequently attends the Ballarat saleyards and other saleyards across Victoria.

Treweek, a Ballarat livestock agent, was last month given a 12-month good behaviour bond and fined $500, without conviction, for animal cruelty.

Ms Dyer said she hoped the outcome would act as a deterrent for people in the future. She said she was happy the matter was dealt with by the courts.

“Sheep have had no justice over the years and their voices haven’t been heard,” Ms Dyer said.

“To have a fine is a massive win, a massive win for sheep.

“I hope this case changes the attitude and behaviour of all stock agents.”

Ballarat Saleyards manager Jonathan Crilly said cruelty was not commonplace as the saleyards.

“We take animal welfare issues very seriously at the saleyards,” Mr Crilly said.

“We have a number of procedures in place to monitor the welfare of stock and ensure their safety.

“Any member of the public can come in, and if there are any concerns they can report it which will go through the right procedures and passed on to DEPI.”