SPCA lays charge against crocodile farmer

2012-04-26 15:21
Johannesburg - The National Council of SPCAs has laid a criminal charge against a crocodile farmer in Pongola, northern KwaZulu-Natal, for animal cruelty.

"Crocodiles are being exploited and made to suffer to fuel the demand for the glamour market, which includes the manufacture of handbags, belts and shoes from crocodile skins," said Nazareth Appalsamy, the council's national inspector for its farm animal unit.

There were about 15 000 crocodiles on Coen Labuschagne's farm Metcroc Boerdery, he said.

Three months before being slaughtered, those chosen were put into in a single pen (one pen per crocodile). This was meant to ensure there were no blemishes on the animal's thick skin, Appalsamy told Sapa on Thursday.

He said the pens measured less than a metre across and were under two metres long.

"Some of the crocodiles themselves are more than two metres in length and so their tails are bent in the enclosure, or their heads have to be permanently at an angle. They basically cannot lie or rest straight. There is no shade cloth or shelter or any heating requirements, which would be necessary depending on the season."

Social species

These single pens were known as "finishing pens", as their purpose was to "restrict movement, increase growth and ultimately avoid confrontation or interaction among other crocs, guaranteeing no injuries to the skins".

He said this was cruel as crocodiles were a social species.

"The pens are too small, too shallow and unsheltered, and this is in contravention of the SA national standard for crocodiles in captivity... and the Animal Protection Act."

Labuschagne said this was the first he had heard of a criminal charge.

"I didn't know there was a charge laid against me," he told Sapa via phone from Mozambique.

He said he had recently submitted a letter to the SPCA requesting an arbitration hearing.

"I am 100% on the right side. I am not wrong. They just want to prosecute for the sake of prosecuting."

He denied claims about the size of the pens.

"That's a lie. It is wrong what they are saying. I don't know where they got those measurements from."

Labuschagne would return to South Africa next Tuesday. He would consult with a lawyer, and did not want to comment further.

Appalsamy said the NSPCA had consulted with the SA Crocodile Farmers' Association, of which Labuschagne is a member, before laying the charge.

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