Rise in goat theft coincides with revelation of chiller box trade

Clare Adcock
By Clare Adcock
Updated January 12 2022 - 12:07am, first published January 7 2022 - 5:30am
Photo: Lucy Kinbacher

After the revelation last December of stolen goats being sold to chiller box facilities in the Maranoa region, producers have expressed concern at the rising number of animals being taken from private properties.

Statistics from the Major and Organised Crime Squad (Rural) on the number of goats stolen over the last two years, show that last year 429 head were reported stolen across the state compared to 220 head in 2020, a 48 per cent increase in the 12 month period.

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Surprisingly, 2021 was not the biggest year for theft, with 790 head being stolen five years ago.

Mitchell goat breeder Peta Hannah is one producer concerned about the rise in goat theft.

She said her family had reported about $120,000 in Boer goats stolen from their property to police, and she feared that amount could be higher.

Ms Hannah said now that she was aware that goats were able to be sold to chiller boxes, she was more concerned than ever about stock theft.

"I wouldn't know if any of my goats have been taken to the roo box, would I?" she said.

"Any of the people taking goats into the chiller box, I can just about bet my life that they're stolen because none of us are just going to let them take them and sell them for $2/kg when we're getting $9.70/kg ourselves at the abattoir.

"It's just so wrong."

The record prices for goat meat in the current market are undoubtedly an incentive for theft, which adds even more salt to the wound for producers losing revenue from stolen animals.

"I can remember when we started taking goats off this place - they were worth $5 a goat, and everyone used to laugh at us, but look at what they're worth now," Ms Hannah said.

"The goats got us through all of the drought, and it really annoys me that people think they can just come on and pinch them.

"We've been losing them for years and it needs to be stopped."

Grey area

The main grey area that was highlighted in the uncovering of the goat chiller box market was the legality behind goats being classified as feral animals, making the trade legal.

Another issue concerning goat owners is the lack of traceability when goats are sold through an unregulated trade, which may compromise meat safety.

Producer Therese Allen, Mitchell, said the industry should be worried about the repercussions of the chiller box trade in regards to safe meat practices, particularly when sold for human consumption.

"My question is, are the goats being put in with the kangaroos? Because that's a cross-contamination of species and is definitely not allowed," Ms Allen said.

"What are the legal requirements for the slaughtering of goats for the chiller boxes, both for human and animal consumption and where is the trace back? What happens if we had a foot in mouth outbreak or something like that?

"They're the questions I want answered because it's a threat, not only to the goat industry, but to all animal industries."

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Both Ms Allen and Ms Hannah believe that there is an imbalance of responsibility between producers involved in genuine trade and those selling stolen animals to chiller box facilities.

"The integrity system is all over us with our paperwork, we've got so much of it, but they can just come onto our place, steal our goats and put them in a roo box," Ms Hannah said.

Ms Allen agreed, saying accountability needs to be ensured.

"All the people here who have goats behind a fence, they take their goats to Charleville and they have to have an NLIS tag, they have to have all the paperwork.

"So why is it, they have all these requirements and yet, there's a grey area where a box doesn't have to have NLIS tags or a traceback, they only have a little bit of paperwork.

"There's a very grey area and that's the thing that we really need to sort out."

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Both MLA and the Goat Industry Council of Australia declined to comment.

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Clare Adcock

Clare Adcock

Roma Journalist - Queensland Country Life

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