Victorian Sheep Shearers Are Being Accused Of Drug And Animal Abuse

Drive into Horsham today and you’ll be greeted with a peculiar sight – as confronting as it is downright confusing.

A young man’s face plastered across a roadside billboard – his eyes wild and disturbed, his skin pallid, jaw clenched – and, alongside it, a message to the public: “Dave has been up on ice for three days. Shearing and drugs don’t mix.”

Those two subjects, shearing and drugs, might seem like strange bedfellows – and evidently, that’s pretty much the point. But according to PETA, whom sponsored the marketing campaign at the entrance/exit to one of Western Victoria’s primary sheep-shearing hubs, the worlds of drugs and agriculture collide more often than we might like to think.

“Animals can be injured or even killed when workers shear them under the influence of drugs,” says PETA associate director of campaigns Ashley Fruno. “Shearers in Horsham and across the country can help sheep by bringing to light the dangerous behaviour which appears to be widespread throughout Australian sheds.”

One instance of that ‘dangerous behaviour’ to which he refers came to light back in 2014, when a series of leaked videos exposed a handful of workers who were violently abusing their sheep. The disturbing hidden camera footage reportedly showed shearers stomping the animals, gouging them in the eyes and beating them in the face with electric clippers.

And the timing of the billboard is no accident: today, on Friday the 30th of March, the four shearers involved will face the Horsham magistrates court after having pleaded guilty to 60 counts of animal cruelty.

Of some importance, though, is that fact none of the four shearers are facing any drug charges whatsoever.

“It’s tarring us all with the same brush,” said local shearer Jamie Tippet, who abhors the billboard for the bleak shade its casting on the small rural community. “I’m not saying there’s no drugs in the industry, there is, and if we find them we deal with it straight away,” he said. “But there’s drugs in a lot of workplaces, it’s not just the shearing industry.”

The billboard’s slogan seems like an obvious conclusion: drugs and shearing very probably don’t mix. And the prominence of ice in rural areas like Horsham is by now well-known. But the actual connection between this particular, documented abuse of animals and the more “widespread” abuse of drugs is, dare we say, a little fuzzy.

PETA spokesperson Laura Weyman-Jones declares that the billboard is there to send a message to the shearing industry.

“Obviously Horsham is a shearing hub; it’s a hub for the wool industry and as people drive in and out they’ll see it,” she said. “We hope the sentencing on Friday and the placement of this billboard will send a strong message to the industry that this kind of behaviour should not be tolerated… They [the shearers] should be met with maximum penalties in order to curb this abuse.

“I don’t think there is any negative to asking people to report animal and drug abuse.”

Source: ABC News
Feature image: PETA
Image: CBS News


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