Home' Straight Furrow 70th Anniversary : Dec 19 2011 Contents Straight Furrow • December 19, 2011 15
STRAIGHT FURROW CELEBRATING 70 YEARS -- THE 1960s
When the country held its breath
TWO hunters presented a successful defence in
May 1968 after a constable caught them load-
ing sheep into a car. The pair told Gisborne
Magistrates Court they had believed the animals
were sick and they had been taking them to their
Their account created enough "reasonable doubt
for the magistrate to dismiss the theft charges and
say he wondered if a jury would believe their story
A bank officer and a teacher had been charged
with the theft of two sheep. They had opted for
summary jurisdiction and had pleaded not guilty.
Mr RJ Peddle told the court he had found six four
tooth wethers penned in derelict yards on his
Matawai property. Two vehicles had been parked
nearby. He had returned with the constable "who
remained on the spot".
Mr Peddle said two men who had been seen at
the site had received permission from his son to be
on the property. The farmer said the bank officer
had told him he thought the sheep were sick. The
constable said he had seen the pair go to a whare
near the yards about 2.20pm; the two defendants
had soon caught a sheep each and had dragged
them towards the road. The bank officer had placed
a sheep in his car's boot.
The banker said a sheep the teacher had been
holding was sick and he had been taking it to Mr
Peddle's. The constable said the banker had told
him the sheep in his boot was also sick. When he
had opened the boot, the sheep had bounded away
Both defendants told the court they were sure the
sheep had been sick. The magistrate said the truth
sometimes was the weakest of stories. The pair's
story had been told so well he did not know
whether to believe it or not. The bank officer's
story had been so naïve the magistrate was com-
pelled to accept the quite incredible explanation.
ON May 5, 1968 a standstil
order was imposed on a
circle of farms around a
property in Warkworth, where
an unidentified disease had
infected 18 pigs. As result, the
rest of New Zealand stood still
with one question on every-
one's mind -- was this foot and
mouth disease? Three days
later came the answer: the
country was still free from any
serious animal disease.
Straight Furrow said there was
constant vigilance was the price
that had be had to be paid to
safeguard the disease-free repu-
tation of our farm livestock,
which the whole economy
As the Department of
Agriculture's director of animal
health, Dr S. Jamieson said: "It
is better we do this 100 times
than let one case slip by with
Our view was that a few days'
inconvenience for a few farmers
and the relatively modest cost
of putting into operations road-
blocks, farm inspections and
the slaughter of 26 pigs was a
cheap insurance policy.
This was not a matter to be
hushed up. New Zealand had an
international commitment to
notify immediately the repre-
sentatives of our overseas mar-
kets of any unidentified out-
break of disease. Within the
country it would be impossible
to keep quiet and suppress all
information of any action taken.
As soon as the roadblock was
established it would only be a
matter of hours before the news
was published and rumours
would be rife.
Rumours that translated into
news stories in overseas publi-
cations would have dire results
and would seriously undermine
the confidence overseas coun-
tries had in our animal health
procedures and the certificates
of health that were signed daily
for export products.
"It would be impossible. And
wrong, for us [Straight Furrow]
to attempt to suppress informa-
tion about actions taken within
this country to protect animal
health," Straight Furrow com-
Dealing with an outbreak of an
unidentified disease 40 years
ago was a paramilitary opera-
tion and this was the first exam-
ple of the new Animals Act,
passed the year before, being
put into effect.
"That it worked so efficiently
has proved that the provisions
of the Act are sound and we
have no worries on this score."
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