Jury acquits sheep feedlot contaminator

6 May 2005

A man who contaminated a sheep feed lot at Portland in Victoria's west, has been found not guilty of deliberately setting out to cause economic loss.

A County Court jury in Geelong unanimously ruled that Ralph Hahnheuser, of Adelaide, was motivated by a desire to save the sheep from export when he spread ham through their feed and water two years ago.

Mr Hanheuser's colleague Mark Pearson, from the Animal Liberation Group, says his intentions were noble.

"His intent was not to cause economic harm but in fact to prevent suffering to animals," he said.

"That was clearly the intent in his mind and therefore he was released a free man."

But Davis Peddie, who owns the feed lot at Portland, says the decision astounds him.

"I can't understand how a man who cost companies - legitimate businesses - millions of dollars can walk away completely free," he said.

"I don't understand the system."

Farmers believe a jury's decision will see an escalation in activities designed to sabotage the live export trade.

The Victorian Farmers Federation's Simon Ramsay says he fears the decision will see a raft of similar incidents.

"That was our fear from the start - that if this case wasn't successful and there was a not guilty verdict found, the animal liberationists would take advantage of that and immediately seek license to go out and commit unlawful acts," he said.

Animal rights activists across Australia will meet soon to discuss escalating their campaign against the live export trade.

Mr Pearson says most of the animal rights and welfare organisations across Australia will meet in three weeks.

"We're going to have a major meeting in order to discuss how we're going to escalate the campaign and intensify the campaign, particularly in the light of the Government permitting the opening up the trade to Saudi Arabia yesterday," he said.




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