While vulnerable sheep suffer and die, the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) has failed to take effective action.
These photos seem to show shocking neglect and abuse of sheep at Murrayfield Station – a federally operated Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) property set up to teach best-practice agriculture to indigenous trainees.
A whistleblower who took these pictures reported that sheep were left to die and rot after being caught in badly maintained fencing or simply left to die in yards. He says he saw many lambs in weak and starving condition, which he believes was likely because they were given insufficient food. He reported that ewes pregnant with twins were not given any extra food and that lambs were born malnourished as a result. He also says he discovered adult male sheep who had died from a combination of starvation and worms.
The whistleblower also reported that sick or injured animals were knowingly left to suffer. The DPIPWE investigated these reports and claimed that there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute.
However, records obtained through the Right to Information Act show that department officials themselves observed an incident similar to those reported by the whistleblower – and acknowledged it could have been presented as a case of animal abuse. Yet it wasn’t.
According to government records, while visiting Murrayfield in July 2014 as part of an investigation into allegations made by the whistleblower, two DPIPWE agricultural officers observed a sheep in an advanced stage of pregnancy who was partially paralysed and unable to walk – instead, pulling herself forward with her front legs, her back legs dragging uselessly behind her.
Both a worker and the property manager confirmed that they were aware of the sheep’s injuries and that the animal had been run over by an ATV the previous day. Instead of having been immediately treated or euthanised, however, the sheep had simply been left in agony overnight on a winter’s night when it was raining heavily. It wasn’t until an officer took it upon himself to shoot the suffering animal, who was later found to have a shattered pelvis and dislocated hip, plus massive internal bleeding, that her pain and misery ended.
In the words of one of the officers, the ewe would suffered “unjustifiable pain and suffering for an extended period of time”.
In this instance, the DPIPWE determined there was adequate evidence against both the property manager and the ILC to file cruelty-to-animals charges. The case should have been clear-cut from the start.
But rather than pursue adequate charges, the department instead issued a fine of just $280.
This paltry penalty sends the message that authorities are not serious about animal welfare and appear to be more concerned with politics than prosecutions.
Broken Legs Not Uncommon
As these images apparently show, the whistleblower documented that sensitive, gentle sheep – who feel fear and pain just as humans do – endured agony from broken legs that were simply bound up with duct tape. The manager also allegedly repeatedly let sheep with broken legs out of the yards with no treatment whatsoever.
Sheep Suffer Greatly During Shearing
Because of the fast, rough nature of shearing sheds – where workers are paid by volume, not by the hour – sheep sustain painful cuts, gashes and other injuries. These photos show shearing wounds reportedly inflicted on sheep at Murrayfield.
Public awareness of appalling cruelty in the wool industry continues to grow, which makes this governmental hand-wave hard to take. PETA affiliates have videotaped workers abusing sheep in shearing sheds across Australia. Eyewitnesses have seen sheep punched in the face, badly injured by careless shearers and denied veterinary care, despite oozing, bloody wounds.
In this case, DPIPWE officials did not hold Murrayfield properly accountable, issuing only a small fine for what they witnessed themselves. By their own admission, they found probable cause to bring cruelty-to-animals charges.
Did they not prosecute simply to avoid further blemishing the sheep industry’s already badly tarnished record?
Gruesome Injuries and Unimaginable Suffering
How You Can Help
The DPIPWE must take meaningful action to ensure that those responsible for any past or ongoing neglect and abuse at Murrayfield are held truly accountable.