2017 Soybean Harvest

2017 Soybean Harvest

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Saskatchewan farmer convicted in distressed cattle case

Saskatchewan farmer John Kowalik has been convicted of one count of "causing or permitting cattle to be in distress" contrary to The Animal Protection Act, 1999.  Under the Act, an animal is in distress if it is:
(a) deprived of adequate food, water, care or shelter;
(b) injured, sick, in pain or suffering; or
(c) abused or neglected.
The Crown’s evidence overwhelmingly established beyond a reasonable doubt that many of the cattle for which the accused was responsible were indeed in distress. The testimony of Barry Thiessen, who is a designated Animal Protection Officer under the Act, showed the cattle to have been kept in a field with inadequate shelter on one side of the quarter section and absolutely no shelter on the other three sides. Thus these animals were at the mercy of the winter winds. One old black cow had collapsed to the ground and was eating the snow in front of it as far as it could reach in an effort to keep hydrated. A large mound of faeces had built up behind it. It had to be shot to put it out of its misery. A cow had given birth. The placenta had not detached and was hanging out of the cow’s birth canal. Its newly born calf was wandering about unable to feed because the mother would not bond with it. Other cattle were clearly undernourished with their spines clearly visible. These had what a defence witness described as a “McDonald’s Arches” look. There was simply no doubt in the judge' mind that these animals were in distress as defined by the Act.

Defence evidence of due diligence on the part of the farmer was rejected.  The accused testified that he had asked his neighbour, Dennis Brassard, to help him move the cattle across the road to a more appropriate pasture where there was adequate shelter. The witness, Dennis Brassard, testified that he had indeed been asked to help move the cattle but was unable to do so prior to Christmas of 2008. He testified that he didn’t help move the cattle between then and March 20 of 2009, because he was not asked to do so by the accused. Indeed the evidence showed that Brassard was more than willing to help and did indeed help when the animal inspector, Mr. Thiessen, ordered the cattle to be moved across the road. In the Court's view, asking a neighbour to help, and then not following up for over three months, was not exercising due diligence. Good intentions do not amount to due diligence. The accused was an experienced farmer. He was born on this farm, and he has worked on it all his life. He could and should have acted much earlier to alleviate the distress that he caused these animals, and that he allowed to continue.

Read the decision at: R. v. Kowalik.