Austrian Animal Protection Trial: 14th - 17th June 2010


Former head of VGT as witness for the prosecution

The witness Dr Franz Josef Plank is the only witness called by the prosecution from the side of animal welfare. Dr Plank was previously head of VGT but was voted out of the organisation following his misuse of donations. Dr Plank appeared before the court in a highly emotional state and let forth a stream of accusations against Dr Martin Balluch, the present head of the organisation. These allegations came as a surprise to the court as Plank had been interviewed by police three times and had written a statement without mentioning them. Dr Balluch has evidence to dispute these accusations and it remains to be seen whether the judge is aware of the plainly obvious: That Dr Plank is driven by a desire for revenge. In any case, she was particularly short with him especially in contrast to her treatment of other prosecution witnesses. This witness is due to testify again on July 19th.

Defendants' right to respond

There was heated discussion between the judge and the defence concerning the defendants being able to respond to witnesses. The defence pointed to the fact that defendants should have the opportunity to respond after each witness has testified. This had not been the case and because of the sheer volume of information it was unfair to expect defendants to make their responses simply some time in the future. In the beginning of the trial, the judge allowed those responses, then shifted to once a day and now it is only once a week.


An animal experimenter was called as a witness to testify about home demonstrations and paint damage to his car. He told the court that the home demonstration had been legally registered with police and that he himself sympathised with people wanting to protest against animal experimentation because not everything is done as it should be. When asked who he thought may have been responsible for the damage to his car he answered that he couldn't say but suspected the, no longer existing, animal rights group OFT as they had registered the protest, but stressed that this was only speculation. In the prosecution files OFT has been replaced with VGT. The judge asked the witness if he knew why that might be. He said he thought there were connections between the two groups, maybe their websites had been linked.

Chicken farmer

A chicken farmer whose sheds had been burnt down in 2000 was called as witness. He himself said he had suspected a group of students who had been given a tour of his farm. He said that some of them were very critical of the farm. He also told the court that Dr Plank had previously photographed conditions on the farm and that these pictures together with a report had appeared in the magazine “News”.

Battery farmer

A battery farmer who the prosecution claims has suffered a loss of €500,000 a year due to a campaign against battery eggs was also a witness during this week. He described the contact he had had with the defendant leading the campaign as always pleasant and continued to detail a fully legal campaign which informed the buying public of the reality of the battery system and, in line with the ban on battery systems, led him to convert his farm to barn egg production.

Court recess

The judge called a recess until July 19th. She explained that each day in court created 110 pages of minutes and that the court was behind on the minutes and she herself needed time to catch up with the reading of the minutes.

Parliamentary hearing postponed

The parliamentary hearing set for July1st to discuss the tightening of Austria's anti-terrorist laws, which would include the law being used in this trial, has been postponed until autumn 2010.


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© Keith Mann