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Company to pay up over toxic pellets

Published on 7 July, 2006, Last updated at 02:57 GMT

7th July, 2006: SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - Topsy, Nolene, Al, Jimmy, Subico and Cracker knew there was something wrong with their feed and refused to eat it. But after Horsepower Equestrian Pellets were mixed with molasses, the six horses succumbed to temptation and ate the food their instincts had told them to avoid.

Soon after consuming the HEP in late July 1998, Topsy, a promising showhorse, died an agonising death in her stable.

An autopsy would reveal death from heart aneurism. Three of the other horses would also feel the effects, to a lesser extent, of the toxic pellets.

In the NSW Supreme Court yesterday, George Weston Foods was ordered to pay $71,113 compensation to the horses' owners after it admitted it had manufactured feed contaminated with monensin - a substance used in the production of cattle and poultry feed that is extremely toxic to horses.

But the horses' owners, Vanessa and Bernard Crump, and their son Rodney failed in their attempt to sue Equine Nutrition Systems, the wholesaler and retailer the Crumps allege sold them the feed.

Judge Clifton Hoeben found yesterday there was not enough evidence to prove ENS had sold the feed to Bernard Crump.

Mrs Crump sued for psychological damage caused by witnessing Topsy's death. "She has had difficulty in sleeping and has suffered recurrent nightmares, which relate to the death of Topsy," Justice Hoeben wrote in his judgment.

Although the judge found Mrs Crump was "prepared to adjust her evidence with a view to obtaining the best result she could in court proceedings", he ordered George Weston Foods to pay her $9450 on top of the compensation for the loss of the horses.

The final amount of compensation to be paid by George Weston Foods has yet to be determined.


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