Ontario Farm Faces $720,000 in Animal Cruelty Charges
June 9, 2011 § 68 Comments
Interestingly, I can not find mention of this story, well, anywhere. The only place I found it was in the “Farmers Forum” which is, according to them, “Eastern Ontario’s and east-central Ontario’s leading farm newspaper”. Article is posted below. I find it very slanted, and quite inflammatory. Of course, I’ve seen this attitude before with the (horse) pro-slaughter activists. ‘Be careful farmers, it’s a slippery slope… if they ban horse slaughter it’ll end up killing the cattle industry… if they enforce humane laws it’ll kill the cattle industry… they’re all animal rights activists… blah… blah… blah‘.
I will, as usual, be breaking into the “article” to add my own two cents. I can do that, because it’s my blog. :)
Shocker: investigators can ignore codes of conduct and make up their own rules
By Ian Cumming
CHESTERVILLE — Last December, an unidentified caller to the Ontario Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) fretted about a dozen bred, healthy Holstein heifers standing outside a Chesterville-area farm. The heifers had free-choice baleage, later tested at 20 per cent protein, free-choice water, shelter beside the dairy barn and a nearby grove of trees. The temperature on the day was minus four degrees Celsius. It was a pleasant day for cows. It turned out to be one of the worst days in the lives of David and Marilyn Robinson, who owned the farm.
Ok. First off, the slant in the article is evident by the very first sentence. “fretted about a dozen bred, healthy Holstein…” That bothers me. Secondly, I would have to guess someone has a grudge against the Robinsons. Why else would anyone call if it was only -4 degrees Celsius? Especially if they had shelter? And were in good weight? I mean, most people wouldn’t even notice if there was enough water or food as they drove by! But… the cattle weren’t in good weight.
When OSPCA investigator Bonnie Bishop ordered the Robinsons to put their heifers back in the barn and later charged them with animal cruelty, they decided to fight back.
More slant. The writer doesn’t explain up front that the cattle looked skinny (which explains the order to put them in the barn where it was warm). Was the passerby someone who knew nothing about cattle? Cattle and horses are judged on a different scale. Horses are judged on a scale of 1-9 whereas cattle (at least in Ontario) are judged on a scale of 1-5. Supposedly, according to the writer (you’ll see shortly) these cattle were a 2.5 on the BCS (Body Conditioning Scale). A rating of 2.5-3 is what is deemed acceptable. 2 is deemed underweight (see image below). The writer also intimates below that more charges were laid because the Robinsons “fought back”. (Click on the photo to enlarge, then click your “back” button to return to this page.)Click on the photo to enlarge, then click your “back” button to return to this page.
When OSPCA investigator Bonnie Bishop ordered the Robinsons to put their heifers back in the barn and later charged them with animal cruelty, they decided to fight back. That resulted in more charges and $720,000 in fines — $60,000 for each charge of animal cruelty brought against them. The Robinsons have one of the smallest dairy farms in the province – with 15 kg. of quota – and have been dairy farmers for 39 years. But they are not pushovers and have just fought their case in a five-day provincial appeal hearing at the Animal Care Review Board at Cornwall ending May 13. It speaks more about the abuse of power than it does about the Robinsons’ management practices. The hearing found that regardless of the Dairy Codes of Practice, an OSPCA officer can ignore them and make up his or her own criteria for what is animal cruelty. Even if the Robinsons win their case, which they should, no one will cover their legal fees, which means even when you win you lose.
“It speaks more about the abuse of power than it does about the Robinsons’ management practices.” Again, slant.
“…an OSPCA officer can ignore them and make up his or her own criteria for what is animal cruelty.” This is interesting. The OSPCA has been under fire over the last year or two for failing to charge people in general, and for poor management of their dog and cat shelters. Yet, suddenly, they’re “making up their own rules” and charging this poor farmer egregiously. I happen to think, and many agree with me, that the laws written regarding the care of livestock are archaic, antiquated, and full of holes. I do think the OSPCA should have the power to fill in those places where age and gaps exist. It is their job. They are trying to prevent cruelty to animals.
The hearing was chaired by Rae Legault, of Toronto, and panel member from the Ottawa area, Carolyn Rutters. Legault could have resolved this issue and avoided wasting taxpayer dollars on lawyers’ fees if she simply drove to the Robinson farm with two hand-picked impartial farmers for advice and took a look around. But legally, that can’t be done.
I don’t agree with the writers idea. There is a camaraderie amongst farmers, a group mentality of keeping ‘outsiders’ away and sticking up for each other. Ever hear of “shoot, shovel and shut up”? The only farmers that might stand up and say something are those smaller non-containment farmers.
The owner of the above cow posted the photo asking for help with how much to feed their cow: “I am embarrassed to post these pics of her (because) she seems so bony!“
It also could have been resolved if someone decided to listen to the two Dundas County veterinarians, Willy Armstrong and Lawrence Gray, who testified under oath at the hearing that the cattle are well cared for, having plenty of feed and water, with an average body score of 2.5. Gray, a practicing vet since 1956 at the Robinson’s, bluntly noted that, “If this herd is in trouble then over half the herds in Dundas County are in trouble.”
If this is the case, I agree with the writer. If two vets testified that the cattle in question were at appropriate weight on the day of the complaint, then the OSPCA should have listened. A vet has considerable more training than an OSPCA officer – to say the least.
Here are some of the sordid details of this case.
Early on in the investigation, after David Robinson told OSPCA officer Bonnie Bishop he had a heart condition and the stress of the demands against the farm could kill someone, she decided it was a threat against her. So the OSPCA obtained a warrant and raided the farm, arriving with eight police cars as an escort. Robinson, thanks be to God, is still alive.
Again, “sordid details“? I realize you’re not an actual news reporter (that’s obvious) but it’ not a blog either.
While I agree the OSPCA may have taken the threat a little too far, it was indeed a threat. Otherwise, instead of the word “someone”, he would have said “me”. The stress of the demands against the farm could kill me. The OSPCA, as well as all Animal Control officers, etc. are often threatened, shot at, etc. They take that sort of threat very seriously.
The appeal hearing was to contest an order to have the herd’s body condition score up to 2.5 by July 1. With two days left in the hearing, the Robinsons were charged by the OSPCA for animal cruelty 12 times, bringing with it a total of $720,000 in fines – a slight distraction to the hearing.
Wait. Hold your horses! They were contesting an order to have the herd’s body condition score up to 2.5 by July 1??? I thought it was 2.5, according to the vets! Or actually, according to your slant on the story. So, this leads me to believe that the cattle were actually not a 2.5 on the day someone called and complained. If that’s the case… the OSPCA had every right to charge the Robinsons, as well as to raid after a threat of death. See, even if the writer wants to slant the article in favour of the Robinsons, more shines through a bit, doesn’t it?
Just in case the OSPCA might lose the case on arguments concerning animal neglect, one OSPCA lawyer focused attention on overcrowding in the barn – overcrowding caused by the OSPCA after ordering the Robinsons to put their heifers back in the barn.
So, there is not enough room in the barn for all the cattle? Obviously in inclement weather, all cattle should be allowed in the barn. Especially the emaciated ones, non?
The photographs taken on the farm of a 14-year-old cow showed that she did not have, gasp, a 2.5 average body condition score. But asking an 80-year-old man to look 20 is pushing your luck.
Ah, the age defense. But your honour! That cow is old! I’m starting to see a trend here… it’s quite possible that cattle farmers use the same tired excuses as horse owners who neglect their horses!
And really, “gasp“? That alone proves you are not a news reporter.
So, you’re saying the only cows on the farm with a BCS of less than 2.5 were end-of-life or senior cattle? No, you don’t say that, because you can’t say that. You use that one cow as an example to “prove” your piece.
If senior cattle are emaciated, and you do not have the time or concern to manage that issue, maybe having them euthanized or even slaughtered is the proper way to go?
After the raid, the Robinsons said they were terrified to sell or ship anything after being ordered to have a 2.5 average body score for the herd by July 1. To keep the average up they are holding on to fat, stale cows and big bred heifers.
Again, here you are saying that the cattle, in general, are beneath a body score of 2.5! Way to go! Thanks for clearing that up! They’re also admitting, straight out, that they have a number of cattle beneath 2.5 on the BCS, since they are cherry-picking the biggest cattle to keep.
The OSPCA veterinarian and key witness, Bruce Robertson, from Campbellford, didn’t agree with the two Dundas County veterinarians and for his “opinion” that the body condition score was less than two (though he didn’t measure the entire herd), he told the hearing he was paid $4,500 to $5,000 for two days work.
Ah. So a vet not paid by the Robinsons said there were cattle onsite that measured less than two.
And did the other two vets measure the entire herd?
All witnesses for all sides testified under oath that the orders issued by the OSPCA exceeded the written Dairy Codes of Practice.
Yeah? So? As I explained, there are gaps, huge holes, in the laws.
OSPCA inspector Bonnie Bishop, when grilled for eight hours on the stand, stated that, “no one has said that the Code is what the OSPCA relies on.” She added correctly that, by law, she alone can legally determine whether an animal is suffering distress or not.
Yes. And they have guidelines. They are trained. Go to their website. It’s all there buddy… This is not news…
One witness for the OSPCA, Bishop’s former sale barn inspector, was found to have broken the rules of evidence collected by not showing them to the accused 10 days prior to the hearing, as required, and was not allowed to testify.
Because that never happens, right? You use this statement to make the OSPCA look bad (sloppy, etc.) but yet, it’s so common. So ordinary. Things like this happen every day in court.
The Robinsons were ridiculed on the stand by an OSPCA lawyer, telling them they couldn’t afford to care for their animals and couldn’t possibly earn enough money to give their daughters an education. The daughters were sitting in the room. One is a mechanic. The other is a registered nurse.
Lawyers are not allowed to make “commentary”. Considering how slanted and inflammatory the article seemed intended to be, I suspect the questioning went a little differently. Such as “So, you were able to support your family and educate your children on the income from the dairy farm?” I suspect it was to show whether the farm made money or not. Non?
The OSPCA lawyers repeatedly asked questions that appeared to show little knowledge of farming and farming practices. Said one lawyer to Marilyn Robinson: “What? You don’t grow your own shavings for bedding on the farm?”
I didn’t realize lawyers today had to have an agricultural degree to practice…
This reporter was visited by two OPP officers prior to the hearing, suggesting that I don’t attend. I went anyway and found Bishop protected by four to seven police officers. I’m glad I went as I was able to record that when it comes to the law, the OSPCA is above it and every farmer needs to know it.
(A) I agree your being told to stay away was a little over the top. (B) “I was able to record that when it comes to the law, the OSPCA is above it and every farmer needs to know it.” shows just how incredibly slanted your article is.
A ruling on this appeal is expected within days.
While I understand different groups of people with special interests “stick together”, it is often to the detriment of the general public. Think of the police who have their own “code” whereby they will lie for another officer to protect the “shield” (group in general). I understand the inclination, since they can often feel under fire from the media and public. It erodes the publics general perception of the police. But the bottom line is; don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. Police should be held above the general public for their actions. They are the ones who are protecting us… from us.
Farmers, especially farmers who raise livestock for any food-chain purpose, should be held above the rest of us “pet owners” as far as sanitation, humane treatment, cleanliness, and health (among other things) when it comes to the welfare of their livestock. Unsanitary conditions and unhealthy animals produce poor results for the farmer; and poor and potentially dangerous products for the consumers.
If your livestock is emaciated, beneath the basic acceptable levels outlined by the government (which it looks like these cattle actually were), you should face the music. Instead of threatening OSPCA officers and “fighting back” with everything you’ve got… maybe you should open your eyes and realize what is actually going on in your own barn. Your cattle should not be below a 2 on the BCS, especially when bred.