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    Unclear why serious animal cruelty charges dropped against operators of Wally's Piggery

    Thu 20 Nov 2014 by (Animal Defenders Office (ADO))

    This article relates to the following facility: Wally's Piggery (Aussie Pigs)

    The ADO is extremely disappointed to learn that the serious animal cruelty charges laid against the managers of ‘Wally’s Piggery’ have been dropped and the case against them dismissed in the Yass Local Court on Monday 17 November 2014.

    Wally’s Piggery was located just outside Canberra.  In 2012 activists revealed shocking conditions in which pigs were kept and killed in the piggery (see Aussie Pig Farming: The Inside Story).  The story made international headlines, and prompted an investigation by RSPCA NSW, the police, and the NSW Food Authority into the piggery.  53 animal cruelty charges were laid against the managers, including 12 counts of alleged aggravated animal cruelty.  The operators pleaded not guilty.

    The withdrawal of the case has caused widespread concern amongst animal protection groups. Understandably, the community in general feels let down by our legal system which seems to have failed to provide justice for factory farmed animals, or to sanction farmers who do the wrong thing regarding the animals in their care.

    Details regarding Monday’s court hearing are difficult to come by.  The ADO contacted the Yass Local Court which simply advised that the hearing was ‘short’.  The ADO also contacted the RSPCA NSW, but was referred to their impending media release.  A spokesperson advised they were hoping to release a statement about the case to the media ‘today or tomorrow’.

    The RSPCA’s statement is now available here (although not yet on their own website).

    In the meantime an article about the case in The Land has also been released.

    According to the article, the prosecution was ‘hindered due to unlawfully obtained video footage’.  

    It is difficult to understand how this could have led to all charges against the piggery operators being dismissed.  Under s138 of the Evidence Act 1995 (NSW/CTH), a court has a discretion to admit ‘improperly or illegally obtained evidence’. Such evidence is not automatically dismissed simply because it may be ‘illegally obtained’.

    Moreover, the RSPCA insists in its statement that the case in the Yass Local Court did not rely on the activists’ footage at all:

    The RSPCA NSW’s case in this matter sought to rely on its Inspectors observations and those of other agencies and an expert when they attended in early August 2012 and not the widely distributed video footage.

    The status of this footage as ‘illegally obtained’ therefore seems irrelevant.  Inexplicably, the RSPCA spends a large part of the otherwise fairly brief statement about the case expressing its disappointment in the activists and their alleged failure both to ‘substantiate’ the footage and to provide it to an enforcement agency before giving to the media.

    However, if the RSPCA was not going to use the footage, it’s not clear why it needed to be ‘substantiated’. In addition, the ADO understands that individuals in question were in fact prepared to provide statements, and that the RSPCA was advised of this during the preparation of the case.  

    The ADO also understands that the footage was provided to the media after it had been provided to various enforcement agencies. Indeed, the first media reports on national TV refer to the investigation that had already been undertaken by the various authorities (eg SBS TV News, 4 August 2012).

    It is therefore still extremely unclear as to why the case was discontinued. 

    The ADO has requested a transcript of the hearing.