Noel Erickson sentenced over mistreatment of bobby calves

Noel Erickson was sentenced in Huntly District Court (Briar Marbeck / Newshub.)
Noel Erickson was sentenced in Huntly District Court (Briar Marbeck / Newshub.)

Warning: This video contains images that may disturb some viewers

A man who was caught on camera abusing bobby calves has been sentenced to 10 months' home detention and 200 hours' community work.

Noel Piraka Erickson, 38, pleaded guilty to 10 charges of cruelty or ill treatment of an animal last month. Several of the charges carried potential jail terms.

At his sentencing at the Huntly District Court this morning he was also banned from owning animals for three years.

The brutal offending to 115 bobby calves happened over two days in August last year, when Erickson was working as a casual meat worker at Down Cow Ltd in Te Kauwhata, Waikato.

The abuse was caught on hidden cameras planted by animal rights group Farmwatch, and included Erickson slamming a calf into the concrete floor from head height.

He was also filmed kicking the animals, and using blunt force against them. 

Erickson hid his face under a hoodie as he walked into the Huntly District Court this morning.

His lawyer told the court he used blunt force trauma to kill a calf under the direction of his employer.

"The management themselves directed and condoned the actions that my client engaged in."

He said his client was never provided with a firearm to stun the animals, and was scared he would lose his job if he didn't follow orders. 

His lawyer also said there was a "breach of trust" from Down Cow Ltd, which is also facing charges.

"He regrets the whole incident. There's an appreciation of the trauma the animals would've suffered.

"He accepts the actions were cruel and that on reflection there is no justification."

But prosecutor Kevin Herllihy argued only one of the charges relates to the use of blunt force trauma – nine others relate to deliberate actions of cruelty.

"The defendant must have known that when committing these acts, it was wrong," Mr Herllihy said.

Judge Burnett handed down a sentence of home detention rather than a jail term, because of Erickson's early guilty plea and his remorse. She also noted his emotional state as he stood in the dock.

"The unnecessary cruelty was outside the job description," said Judge Burnett.

The footage prompted the Ministry for Primary Industries to launch an investigation. As a result, MPI implemented new rules which come into effect August 1.

The changes mean it will be illegal to kill calves with blunt force to the head, unless it's an emergency.

Calves must also be at least four days old and physically fit before they're transported anywhere, and they can only be transported for a maximum journey time of 12 hours. It's also forbidden to transport calves across Cook Strait by sea.

Three further regulations will be introduced at later dates to allow farmers time to adapt. They include a maximum time off feed of 24 hours before calves are slaughtered, which will be implemented in February.

From August 2017, farmers will also be required to use unloading facilities when transporting calves, and provide suitable shelter before and during transportation.