Farmers warned ‘cowboy behaviour puts entire Irish beef industry at risk’

Judge warns Kerry men they may face jail for consistent lack of cooperation with Department of Agriculture

John Casey Junior and John Casey Snr leaving  Killarney District Court on Tuesday. Photograph: Michelle Cooper Galvin

John Casey Junior and John Casey Snr leaving Killarney District Court on Tuesday. Photograph: Michelle Cooper Galvin

 

A farmer and his son have been warned by a judge that they may face time in jail after they engaged in a consistent campaign of non-co-operation with the Department of Agriculture over their animals.

Killarney District Court heard the farmers had frustrated and obstructed Department of Agriculture officials over several months as the officials tried to get details about their cattle at various farms in Cork and Kerry, said Judge David Waters. When the farmer’s son was asked on one occasion by a Department vet to tell him where some cattle were, the defendant replied: “Go find them.”

Judge Waters rejected a plea that John C Casey, known as Christy Casey (60), and his son, John Jnr (37) were “old style farmers” as he said “old style farmers” were fully aware of the implications such behaviour would have for the reputation of the Irish beef industry whereas the Caseys persisted with “a concerted campaign of non-co-operation”.

“This was a co-ordinated consistent campaign of non-co-operation that appears to merit a custodial sentence – time after time after time, they refused to co-operate with the Department officials - this sort of cowboy behaviour puts the entire Irish beef industry at risk ,” the judge said.

Casey Snr of Crosstown, Killarney, Co Kerry pleaded guilty to a total of 14 offences including a number of breaches of EU Bovine Regulations and a number of breaches of the Animal Heath and Welfare Act 2013. These included several counts of failing to keep a herd register for inspection, possessing a cow without a bovine passport, failing to produce a bovine passport for an animal and failing to provide information about animals and refusing to say where animals were being kept.

Casey Snr also pleaded guilty to failing to provide Department of Agriculture officials with details of the sale of or disposal of cattle and with failing to notify the Department of the birth of animals within seven days as required by the regulations.

Casey Jnr pleaded guilty to a total of seven offences including failing to surrender a herd register to Department of Agriculture vet Louis Rearden and failing to provide information to Mr Rearden about animals as well as failing to produce an animal for inspection by Mr Rearden.

The offences were all committed between April 30th 2014 and February 19th 2015 at various addresses including at Rathcommane, Ballyhar, Killarney, Ballybrennagh, Tralee, and Slieve East, Camp, all in Co Kerry and Ryefield, Whitechurch and Rylane, both in Co Cork.

‘Red rag to a bull’

Mr Rearden told the court the Caseys had steadfastly refused to co-operate with Department officials on several occasions over several months and on one occasion when he asked Casey Jnr to tell him where some cattle were, the defendant replied: “Go find them.”

Louis Reardon of the Department of Agriculture at Killarney District Court. Photograph: Michelle Cooper Galvin
Louis Reardon of the Department of Agriculture at Killarney District Court. Photograph: Michelle Cooper Galvin

On another occasion, Casey Jnr submitted forged garda documentation to the Department, relating to false reports of three animals going missing to avoid having to produce the animals for inspection.

Mr Rearden said Department officials came across two animals which were recorded as being registered within seven days of their birth but were four and five months old.

They also had to use DNA testing to identify another five animals while they were unable to identify one animal.

The vet said that another 116 animals simply disappeared and the Department of Agriculture had no idea what had happened them which had serious repercussion for the Irish beef industry which prided itself and built its reputation on the traceabilty of animals entering the food chain.

Defence solicitor, Padraig O’Connell said that the Caseys were “old style farmers for whom officialdom was like the proverbial red rag to a bull” and while they had clearly failed to co-operate with the Department of Agriculture officials for several months, once the matter came to court, they had co-operated fully.

John Casey Junior and John Casey Snr speaking to their solicitor Padraig O’Connell outside Killarney District Court on Tuesday. Photograph: Michelle Cooper Galvin
John Casey Junior and John Casey Snr speaking to their solicitor Padraig O’Connell outside Killarney District Court on Tuesday. Photograph: Michelle Cooper Galvin

Mr O’Connell pleaded for leniency, arguing in mitigation both men had pleaded guilty, had no previous convictions for such offences and had not come to the attention of Department officials since these offences. He suggested community service or suspended sentences would be a more appropriate penalty.

Judge Waters said the offences were at the higher end of the scale and as such merited custodial sentences but he adjourned penalty until June 18th to allow Mr O’Connell present a medical report on Casey Jnr who had suffered from psychiatric issues including social isolation.