The Roan Calf

On the 21st of January 1876, Joe and Aaron took a roan-coloured heifer calf to be slaughtered by butcher James Warner in Camp Street, Beechworth. No brands were distinguishable on the hide and Aaron asked Warner if he may have the hide back after the calf was slaughtered, for the purpose of making whips. As it was a hot summer day, and the butcher being without pigs, he agreed to this.

A price was settled upon and the agreement noted in Warner’s record book. Joe and Aaron waited at the yard until the calf had been slaughtered and then headed back to Sheepstation Creek with the hide and the head.

Later, on the 27th of January, Mounted Constable Patrick Mullane, who at this time was inspector of slaughter yards, demanded to see the hide, with the law requiring hides be kept for one month. However, as Warner no longer had the head nor hide of the calf and was unable to recall whether the calf was branded, he was fined £5 for the breach.

While no charge was brought against either Joe or Aaron for stealing the calf, the possibility cannot be ruled out, especially given their weakness for taking livestock and property not rightfully theirs.

The Ovens and Murray Advertiser had the following to say regarding the case:

‘Mr Warner, a butcher, trading in Beechworth, was last Tuesday fined £5 by the local bench for a clear breach of the Abattoirs’ Statute, and nothing but the fact of Mr Warner’s character being above suspicion prevented his being aroused of a grave offence. The 35th section of the Act makes it imperative on all butchers either to keep a hide, for one month, or to give a satisfactory account of its disposal. As Mr Pitcairn pointed out, if Mr Warner’s account of having sold back the skin to the known young rascals from whom he bought the calf was to be taken as satisfactory, there would be no security at all against “duffing,” for the thief could always immediately destroy the only evidence against him. We believe we shall be safe in saying that not one butcher out of six in this district complies with the 32nd clause of the Act, which requires every butcher to keep a book in which he is obliged to enter a particular account and description of all cattle slaughtered, specifying, the colour, marks, sex, and apparent age, the name of the seller, the time of slaughter, besides sending in a weekly report. The inspectors themselves are undoubtedly to blame.’

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