A court has heard that dozens of cattle, including some that had been crushed or almost dying of hypothermia, were kept waiting for aid from vets for over six hours following a disastrous Bass Strait crossing.
Shipmaster John McGee pleaded guilty in a Tasmanian court to a count of using a management technique likely resulting in unjustifiable suffering and pain over the 2016 voyage in the MV Statesman.
About 207 cattle were on board the Statesman, which departed from Stanley in Tasmania’s northwest in 2016 (January) for Port Welshpool, based in Victoria, in poor weather.
The court heard that the weather conditions on the voyage ended worse than the original predictions, with the cattle open to the elements, including gale-force winds and heavy thunderstorms in the journey.
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Three strong waves, over six meters in height, reportedly smashed the pens where the cows had been in. About ten cows lost their lives during the crossing, and 59 others had to be euthanased at the port.
The Burnie Magistrates Court heard the port authorities had prevented the cattle from getting unloaded until the situation had been duly assessed by the Victorian animal health authorities, which didn’t occur until over six hours since the ship had reached.
Crown prosecutor Madeleine Wilson said that the delay may have increased the count of cattle that had to be euthanased.
The court was informed that the weather conditions made it too difficult for the crew members to go on the deck to help the animals.
Some cattle were reportedly crushed to death beneath the others, while some suffered from severe hypothermia.
McGee felt ‘pressure’ from ship’s owner; court hears
Wilson mentioned that by deciding to depart, the ship’s master, McGee, exposed the cattle to the consequences that come with severe weather.
It is accepted the defendant was not intending or foreseeing the pain that the animals would have to endure, she explained.
The court heard McGee had been instructed to sail by the Les Dick, the ship’s owner who has since passed away, even though he raised concerns regarding the weather.
Peta Smith, the Defence lawyer, said that she accepted that McGee had the final decision, but there had been mounting “external pressures” from Dick.
He was a formidable figure, and he told him to go, he said.
Smith mentioned that the unexpected weather and delay in vets reaching was out of McGee’s control.
She said that what occurred was a series of unfortunate events.
The charge against McGee is left from the incident, with costs also dropped against many co-accused.
He is expected to be sentenced in January 2023.
References: ABC News, MSN