Sometimes, every option is distasteful

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Gazette readers, both print and online, are understandably disturbed by recent news articles concerning an Indianola-area farmer/rancher who let his cattle starve. As one online comment put it, "Why would you even try and convey some understanding to this illegal act? How does anyone justify 111 deaths caused by neglect and cruelty (starvation)?"

The initial report of a neglected herd occurred on Jan. 13, and the Red Willow County Sheriff's Department and a Nebraska Brand Committee Investigator spent the next two weeks trying to convince the owner to properly feed his cattle and take them to the sale barn. After numerous excuses, the live cattle (146 head) were finally sold on Jan. 28 and the dead cattle (111 head) were ordered to be disposed of. The dead cattle were disposed of two months later on March 24.

Red Willow County officials entered into an agreement with the owner in late January to divest himself of the live cattle and properly dispose of the dead ones in exchange for no criminal prosecution. While the logistics and costs involved in actually prosecuting this case could have been enormous, one has to wonder at what point would the cruelty have been sufficient to warrant criminal prosecution. A large factor in the decision to not prosecute was that the county would have been responsible for feeding, medical care, and transportation costs for the 146 head of cattle that survived. If the herd was smaller and/or fewer head had survived, would the owner have been prosecuted?

There is another element to this story that has caused some concern. Is this farmer/rancher, Tom Brown, free to purchase more cattle and start a new herd? Or worse yet, can he possibly contract to feed someone else's cattle? Were there further stipulations in the agreement that would prevent future tragedies such as this one?

Red Willow County Attorney Paul Wood and Sheriff Gene Mahon released this statement concerning those questions: "At the time of the agreement, the owner of the cattle was advised that should another complaint be made and verified within the three year statute of limitation, violations that are the subject of the agreement would be prosecuted." Obviously, they had the same concern, and addressed that in their agreement.

We live in a farm economy and the majority of us understand that cattle production is not always pretty. Our producers are proud of their herds, and most would never consider doing anything to put that herd in jeopardy. It is a business and a huge investment for the producers. Some producers are better at it than others, as with any business.

County officials also understand the business aspects of raising cattle, and tried to bring this situation to a conclusion. The fact is that without their intervention, the death toll could have been much larger.

While we may not always like their decisions, we also must recognize that sometimes every option is terribly distasteful.

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  • "County officials also understand the business aspects of raising cattle, and tried to bring this situation to a conclusion. The fact is that without their intervention, the death toll could have been much larger". Oh now I get it, if 112 cattle had died then it would have been criminal. Thank goodness that the deaths held at 111. That makes me feel better.

    -- Posted by Pigman1 on Sun, Apr 6, 2008, at 1:38 PM
  • Give me a break!! The Sheriff and County Attorney were just too lazy to do their jobs!!! The "magnitude" of the situation was just too much for their feeble aptitudes. This situation would have taken too much time and organizational requirements for them to even bother with it. My question is - why isn't there a major discussion on recalling these gentlemen (term applied very loosely here)?? Another question to the McCook Gazette - why didn't this story make national headlines?? Are you trying to cover this up as well???

    -- Posted by _CommonSense_ on Mon, Apr 7, 2008, at 12:24 PM
  • The idea that I voted for these officials to represent me now is extremely distasteful. They did not represent our community at all by not upholding the law as written. This also reminds me of the fact that the City isn't currently upholding the law as written by allowing those "dog breeders" south of town. Even though the lawsuit is not settled, the dog breeders are in full operation with their business. This is in direct violation of the law however the City just sits back and decides not to do anything until after the lawsuit. WHY?

    -- Posted by Rural Citizen on Tue, Apr 8, 2008, at 8:52 AM
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