Cattle breeder convicted on sale of animal linked to banned drug

Stanley Richardson convicted of selling bull which had been given phenylbutazone

An award-winning cattle breeder has been convicted of selling a food-producing animal to which a banned substance had been administered, contrary to animal remedies legislation.

Stanley Richardson (67), Woodford, Newtowngore, Co Leitrim, who was described as a well-known breeder of pedigree Limousin cattle, was convicted at Carrick-on-Shannon District Court of selling a bull at Roscrea mart in Co Tipperary on March 10th, 2014, to which a banned substance, phenylbutazone, had been administered.

Three related charges were taken into consideration by Judge Kevin Kilrane, who had been told by a Department of Agriculture expert that it was strictly prohibited to use the drug on any animal which could enter the food chain.

Veterinary inspector Caroline Garvan said the substance was highly toxic, could have a toxic effect on bone marrow and had the potential to have a carcinogenic effect. It could be administered to horses, once they were excluded from the food chain. She said there was "no safe level" for food-producing animals and even when it disappeared from the system of an animal, the animal remained unsafe.

Judge Kilrane, who fined Richardson €500 and ordered him to pay €5,000 costs, said this was not in the same category as situations where cattle had been pumped with hormones to fatten them and increase their value “for pure greed”.

Positive result

He said it may not even have crossed Richardson’s mind that it was a banned substance but nonetheless the court had been told of the consequences “of this type of product going into the food chain”.

The judge said that while the accused “was not motivated by greed” and was just tending his animal, this substance was absolutely banned.

Prosecution counsel Gerard Groarke, on behalf of the Minister for Agriculture, told the court that a number of animals had been randomly selected for testing at Roscrea mart on March 10th, 2014. The samples were forwarded to a laboratory in the UK and one sample from a bull owned by Richardson tested positive for phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory drug.

Paul Sykes, secretary of the Irish Limousin Cattle Society, told the court that after learning of the positive result he and the president of the society, Kevin Bohan, and two other officials met Richardson and his son Robert in Athlone on April 10th, 2014.

Richardson told them he had brought one bull to the mart in Roscrea and had left Robert at home to load up two other animals and bring them to the sale.

His son told the society officials that one bull caught his foot during loading and was lame. Robert's wife had a powder for horses which she administered to the bull. Robert Richardson had told his father about the injury when he got to Roscrea but never mentioned the powder, the court heard.

Brian Flaherty, the head of the department's special investigations unit, told the court that he and a colleague had called to Richardson's farm on April 23rd, 2014. "He was nervous", said the witness.

He said the accused told them he had met a man from Northern Ireland at a show in Cloone, Co Leitrim, who gave him a powder called Equest, which he had used only once. Mr Flaherty said he had then cautioned Richardson, who opted not to sign a statement.

Mr Flaherty denied that he had been heavy-handed, saying: “If I was heavy handed would I have got tea from Mrs Richardson?”

The court heard that Richardson had remarked: “To be honest I thought it was quite harmless.”

Judge Kilrane was told that Richardson had sold another bull in Roscrea to Michael Greaney, a farmer from near Tuam, Co Galway, who was unhappy with the animal's temperament.

The accused swapped the animal, giving him the bull that had already tested positive for the banned substance. The court heard that the bull that Richardson took back from Mr Greaney was slaughtered, and the meat was kept for the personal use of the defendant.