A PLEA by Wellington Shire councillor Keith Mills for council to adopt a stronger policy on animal welfare biosecurity when handling straying stock failed to win the approval of other councillors, despite stock owners packing last week’s council meeting.
Cr Mills, who was fined and convicted for behaving offensively in a public place after verbally abusing animal welfare officers and a district vet at Maffra in 2015, was elected to council last year on the platform of supporting farmers.
The Maffra-born veterinarian was also controversially fined by the council in 2013 after his stock strayed onto a shire-owned road, which was within his property near Dargo.
Two of the cows were calving.
Cr Mills is pushing for the council to strengthen its focus on avoiding “negative” animal welfare and biosecurity impacts when dealing with straying stock.
He attempted to move a motion that would result in animals returned “in a timely” manner to their property of origin or another property nominated by the owner, to avoid potential cross contamination of diseased or sick animals.
He also wanted the handling and transport of animals, in particular pregnant cows, to comply with the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines, Land Transport of Livestock, and for negotiation between council officers and owners of straying stock to have a focus on “biosecurity and animal welfare outcomes”.
He called on council to ensure that it investigated “the most appropriate and effective methods of informing and training local laws staff on matters pertaining to animal welfare and biosecurity”.
Supporting Cr Mills, Bundalaguah farmer John Buxton told the council animal welfare and biosecurity was an issue which had the potential “to impact on our ability to access international markets”.
Mr Buxton said the loss of markets could result in the whole industry affected, and reminded the chamber of the 1970s “beef bust” when farmers were blocked out of markets in Japan and America.
“We shot cattle and put ’em in the ground,” he said.
He said council staff handling livestock needed to be aware of their obligations when moving stray stock.
Woodside wool grower Fergus Irving said straying stock posed a real threat to livestock in the shire.
Cr Mills attempted to have the motion passed, but it lapsed because there was no seconder, as the council’s local laws staff were already approved as general inspectors under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.
Acting chief executive John Websdale said council’s relevant staff already took biosecurity “very seriously”, and there were already rigorous checks and balances in place to ensure compliance with the Impounding of Livestock Act 1994.
“Our staff enjoy sound relationships with the local farming community and only impound stock as a last resort,” he said.
“If impounding of stock is the only option, actions taken by council officers and staff is always in accordance with the act.”