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Gov’t struggles with cows – Not enough meat buyers

“Although slaughter is an option, it is restricted because supermarkets can only absorb a limited quantity of meat at a time” – Dr Pickering

Minister responsible for agriculture Dr Kedrick Pickering said, in relation to stray cattle, the government is facing a number of challenges including a shortage of space to keep the pounded animals, as well as a shortage of supermarkets to accept the meat when they are butchered.

“In practice, a few animals are actually claimed, but sometimes accurate owner identification is difficult. The [Agriculture] Department is responsible for animals that are not claimed. Although slaughter is an option, it is restricted because supermarkets can only absorb a limited quantity of meat at a time.”

“Consequently, the department is oftentimes left with cattle which must be pastured and tended. In that respect, one of the major constraints for the Department is a critical lack of holding capacity or pasture space to cater for loose livestock, which are impounded and have to be kept by the Department for protracted periods,” Dr Pickering further said.

He noted that, when animals are impounded, time is afforded for claims to be made.

According to the Pounds and Livestock Brands Act 2004, if the owner of the animal does not claim it or pay the prescribed fine after 21 days, the animal is forfeited to the Crown.

“The Act gives the Chief Agricultural Officer the discretion to sell the animal, slaughter and sell it as meat, or dispose of it in any other manner that the Chief Agricultural Officer sees fit,” Dr Pickering explained, adding that a “loose livestock programme” exists through the impounding of animals.

He further stated that, although legislative provisions are in place, the Agriculture Department is still restricted by what it can do legally.

“Regulations are still required to adequately facilitate due process in the administration of the Act. For instance, gaps exist in animal and owner identification and the imposition of fees for impounded animals.”

“Despite these constraints, the Department is carrying out the programme as practicably as possible. Known cattle owners, for instance, are engaged and implored for their cooperation and voluntary compliance on a consistent basis. Priority areas like the Ridge Road, East End and Lambert Bay area are routinely patrolled by the loose livestock team and particularly when complaints are received,” added Dr Pickering.

He said persons who find livestock straying onto the private property or in a public place also have the option of contacting the police for assistance.

“Owners that cause or allow their animals to stray are committing an offence and, once convicted, are liable to be fined between $500 to $1,000 and to pay compensation ordered by the Magistrate for injury, loss or damage arising from the offence,” Dr Pickering noted.

He was responding to questions posed in the House of Assembly yesterday (June 13) by Opposition member Julian Fraser. Fraser wanted to know – among other things – if the minister responsible for agriculture has a programme in place to “deal with the nuisance of cattle roaming the streets – and worst destroying people’s property”.

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