IN THE NEWS: Shocking cattle torture not uncommon, farmers say

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IN THE NEWS: On AUG 23, 2011

WA farmers say they are powerless to prevent more cases of shocking animal cruelty similar to the shooting and torture of five head of cattle on a station near Kalgoorlie on the weekend.

Station owners claim sheep, cattle, horses and goats are routinely attacked by vandals or poachers and the regularity and severity of such incidents would "shock" Australia.

The issue came to light yesterday after it was discovered that five heifers had been shot in the stomach with a low-calibre firearm and left to die a slow and painful death.

While the cattle lay bleeding, bottles were shoved into some of their mouths and cigarette butts and rubbish were penetrated into their eyes and ears.

One animal had its throat slashed and legs cut off.

Photos were taken, although this website has chosen not to publish them.

"It's heartbreaking," Matt James, who owned the heifers and runs Woolibar Station, said.

"I was sicker than angry."

The cattle were being kept on a neighbouring property, Mt Monger Station, while a boundary fence was repaired and were on the verge of being either exported to the Middle East or prepared for breeding.

Mt Monger Station owner Brendan Jones said the sight was sickening.

However, the men claim while this was one of the worst incidents of cruelty to livestock it was not an isolated case on Goldfields properties.

"It's become a regular occurrence," Mr Jones said.

"If it's not shooting cows it's shooting cross bows into sheep.

"The general public would be horrified by what we see."

Mr James, who bought Woolibar Station from Nationals MP Tony Crook six years ago, described how he once discovered 14 goats shot and rolled into a dam, left to rot.

Ironically, Mr James said he had been forced into the cattle industry because wild dogs persistently destroyed sheep, ruining almost the entire industry in South-West WA.

The station owners said the recent incident showed Australian's outrage over alleged torture of live cattle sent to Indonesian slaughter houses was hypocritical.

Video footage captured by Animals Australia showing the inhumane slaughter of cattle in Indonesian abattoirs led the federal government in June to temporarily ban live-cattle exports to the country.

"We're here finger pointing at everyone else in the world - Indonesia and Turkey - [while] it's all going on in our backyard," Mr Jones said.

"Australia needs to hang their heads in shame."

Animals Australia executive director Glenys Oogjes said the cases could not be compared.

"In Indonesia the cruelty practices were routine, that is, that was the way that the majority of the abattoirs that our Australian animals were going to were operating," she said.

"Here we have one illegal act."

Ms Oogjes described the Goldfields case as "absolutely abysmal".

"Honestly, this one is a real shock," she said.

While the organisation was not aware of widespread cruelty to livestock in Australia, Ms Oogjes said there were often incidents of horses shot from the roadside.

"I'm appalled to [hear] that this happens not infrequently," she said. "That's absolutely appalling and I think it would shock most of Australia."

Federal Minister for Agriculture Joe Ludwig, who ordered the suspension of live cattle exports in June, also expressed his disgust at the Goldfields incident.

"These are horrific, pointless acts of cruelty," he said.

"Those responsible should face the full force of the law."

Minister for Agriculture Terry Redman said the incident appeared to be "particularly barbaric".

"These appear to be deliberate and calculated actions that are gruesome and repugnant in the extreme," he said.

"Like all West Australians, I would be hoping and expecting that the culprits will face the full force of the law."

Mr James said the attack was even harder to cop knowing he had taken measures to protect the public from his cattle straying onto the road that runs through his property, despite not being legally liable.

He spent $240,000 on fencing last year.

"We put a lot of effort into fencing the roads off so that straying cattle didn't take out a family [in a travelling vehicle], and we get people coming out on weekends who can't find a gate so they cut the fence," he said.

The men said securing their properties was difficult because they covered as much as 1 million acres.

"If I drive right around my boundary it would take all day," Mr James said.

"There's not much I can do."

WA Farmers Federation meat council chairman Jeff Murray said the livestock vandalism was most common in pastoral areas where there were fewer people.

"A lot of people here of them shooting goats ... if there's no goats or pigs maybe they shoot cattle but it's unacceptable, whatever it is," he said.

"It's people's livelihood.

"There's not a great deal that can be done - just that people have to respect people's property."

Forensic experts combed the Goldfields scene yesterday and police are continuing their investigations.

A police spokeswoman said the case may be referred to the RSPCA.

WA has the toughest penalties for animal cruelty with fines of up to $50,000 and/or up to five years' jail.

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