By Kyra Gillespie
Footage of a scuffle between animal rights activists and authorities has emerged online at the scene of a cattle truck accident in Kooweerup, where several cows had to be euthanised on Tuesday 15 January.
The incident took place after a B-double rolled on the intersection of Kooweerup Road and Manks Road around 7.15am.
The driver and sole occupant, a 42-year-old woman from Warrnambool, was assessed at the scene with injuries to her back and ankle, but didn’t require transport to hospital.
The tense scenes, which were live-streamed on social media, depicts a woman comforting a dying cow at the scene of the crash before being arrested by a police officer.
The woman who was arrested, Baxter activist Leah Doellinger, described the incident as “distressing.”
“We went to the accident to see if we could help in any way, as we have friends who can transport and take care of injured animals,” she explained.
“When we went down there we saw a cow far away from the truck that had been injured, so we ran over to her. She’d be shot in the head but was still breathing.
“There was a man there – not a cop – who was yelling at me saying the cow was dead. He poked her in the eye and her leg started moving – she wasn’t dead, but he didn’t want me to film it. He kept blocking me.
“I was just trying to comfort this cow and the next minute I was thrown to the ground by this police officer. He broke my glasses, ripped my earrings and tore my dress so that my bra was showing – it was really quite distressing.
“He could have just asked me to move, it was just crazy – I couldn’t believe I had this big man on top of me.”
In the footage, another can be heard shouting: “She is not resisting arrest.”
Ms Doellinger admitted she and her friend had been initially stopped by police and told they were not allowed to enter as it was a crime scene, but was adamant the injured cow was “nowhere near” the truck.
Activist Joanne Lee, who was also at the scene with Ms Doellinger, said she believed there were at least 100 cows on the truck – most of which she thinks died in the crash.
“They had a forklift and were picking some of them up and taking them. It was obvious they wanted to clean up the carnage without anyone seeing what was going on,” she said.
Cardinia Highway Patrol’s Leading Senior Constable Anthony Templar, the incident controller on the day, said the women were spoken to by police in the lead-up to the arrest.
“During the incident a number of animal activists turned up to film the incident. They were escorted from the scene and advised that they could continue to record from the edge of the scene where it was safe. Ten minutes later they walked back on to the scene and straight up to the cows.
““It was a very difficult day; we were out there in 30-plus degree heat for hours and the cows were worked up because they’d had a massive fright.
“There was traffic and people all over the place – including with firearms and bolt guns – on two majors roads. We didn’t need people turning up and causing more problems.”
Several cattle were euthanised at the scene with assistance from the Department of Agriculture.
The remaining cattle were herded into nearby paddocks. The recovery operation took several hours.
The cause of the collision is still being investigated and anyone with information is requested to call crime-stoppers on 1800 333 000
A Baxter man aged in his 20s and a Cockatoo woman aged in her 20s have been arrested and will be charged on summons for hindering police.