Frasers Transport cops $55k fine over animal deaths


Found guilty of breaching duty of care to animals, livestock operator questions how authorities can dictate to the industry

Frasers Transport cops $55k fine over animal deaths
Frasers Transport cops $55k fine over animal deaths
By Michael House | December 18, 2009

Queensland operator Frasers Livestock Transport has been fined $55,000 and ordered to pay $7000 in costs for breaching its duty of care to cattle.

The incident took place on January 31 last year when Frasers was transporting a herd of 1500 drought affected cattle from Lake Nash in the Northern Territory to Charleville in Queensland.

A total of 120 cattle on board nine triple road trains died during transportation because of extreme heat, torrential rain and lack of rest.

Biosecurity Queensland (BQ) led the prosecution against the operator, arguing Frasers' decision not to rest the cattle on the 1400 km journey was instrumental in the guilty verdict.

"The offence related to the movement of cattle from the NT to Charleville and essentially the decisions made by the owner and the transport company in carrying out the movement," BQ’s investigation manager Craig Elliot says.

"The cattle were in poor condition prior to the movement and the decision to transport such a long distance instead of stopping at any of the yards en route to spell or water the cattle contributed to a number of the deaths and caused unnecessary suffering to the animals."

Elliot says evidence uncovered showed the drivers recognised the problems and raised concerns with company representative and the owner of the cattle during the trip.

"Biosecurity Queensland's case was that the decision to handle cattle that were in poor condition in this manner and move them this distance was a breach of the duty of care the owner and the company had to these animals," Elliot says.

Frasers Director Ross Fraser says the decision his company made to continue the trip was not done so without considerable thought.

"As a request from the owners, the cattle were asked not to be spelled," Fraser says.

"The law states that under exceptional circumstances cattle are not required to be spelled. We thought this was an exceptional circumstance."

Fraser says a small percentage of cattle were deceased when the driver left Longreach.

"Given this statistic and our 65 years of experience in transporting cattle we thought it was better to get the cattle to the destination as soon as possible," he says.

The company also blamed torrential rain as having an instrumental influence.

AUTHORITIES MADE EXAMPLES OF US: FRASER
"The prosecution said when presenting the case that we should have been well aware what the weather conditions should be," Fraser says.

"In our experience the weather bureau is constantly flat out trying to predict the weather, so how are we meant to predict what is going on?"

He says police in Charleville also held the company up for three hours

Despite the being found guilty, Fraser says the company and the nine drivers involved did what they thought at the time was right and he believes they may have been used as an example by the authorities.

"It is obvious that Biosecurity were looking for a test case on animal welfare and chain of responsibility and now they have got it," he says.

"It is fine, or supposedly fine for people to sit in offices and make decisions of this nature, opposed to the decisions us and our drivers had to make out there.

"In situations like this, drought and severe weather is something no one has any control over."


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