A fawn lies in a meadow in the early morning. © Patrick Pleul/dpa-Zentralbild/ZB
Fawns are infinitely helpless, especially in the first days of life. In meadows, they often fall victim to mowing vehicles. Four men are said to have mowed, although they knew about the deer babies - the court saw it differently.
Weinheim - Three fawns are bloodily killed in a mowing operation - a man was sentenced to a fine on Tuesday before the Weinheim District Court. The judge found him guilty of "intentional killing of vertebrates". According to their conviction, he had not passed on the information that helpless deer babies had been in the meadows in Laudenbach (Rhein-Neckar district). The 35-year-old, one of the tenants of the meadows, has to pay 70 daily rates of 50 euros each. Three co-defendants were acquitted of the charge of crude animal abuse. The judgments are not yet final.
Two of the men had mowed the two meadows in June 2021 and vehemently denied on Tuesday that they knew about the fawns - very credible, the judge said in the verdict and acquitted the 54 and 31-year-old men. The two were themselves active in the fawn rescue and had no reason not to believe the now convicted tenant. He had only told the men about two adult deer that the fawn rescue had discovered in the fields. Then he said, "You can mow."
A 64-year-old, the father of the 35-year-old, also went unpunished. He had been accused of killing the three seriously injured fawns in the evening after the end of the mowing work. No evidence of this was found. The alleged act had not been observed by anyone. Witnesses had only heard the son say that the father had "killed" three fawns.
The judge emphasized that the fawns had died without need. The fawn rescue Weinheim, commissioned by the convicted 35-year-old himself, had searched the meadows and urgently warned against mowing, after up to five fawns had been discovered in addition to adult deer. The mowing action could have been postponed without any problems - especially since the fawn rescuers had also offered to help rescue the fawns and to search the field again in the evening. Why the man on "Devil come out" wanted to have mowed on the same day, is incomprehensible.
The mowers must have been a disturbing and horrible sight. In the middle of the mowing work, their machines had caught the little fawns - one in one meadow and two in the other. The animals were covered in blood and already dead and then deposited by them on the edge, they said. Whether the animals were actually dead immediately or were later beaten to death by the 64-year-old could not be clarified. A hunting tenant called in the next day was unable to recover the animal carcasses. They had disappeared and were presumably eaten by predators such as a fox.
The proceedings were marked by inconsistencies and gaps in memory. The 35-year-old, in particular, could remember little. He had told the mowing team that he would "take care of it". Instead, he had not properly informed the hunting tenant on the same day that he was told of the dead fawns.
The trial took place because all the defendants had not accepted the penalty orders previously issued by the prosecutor's office. The men would have had to pay between 4500 and 10 000 euros, depending on their income, and then appealed against it.
In the present case, members of the fawn rescue Weinheim had searched the meadow early in the morning, but could not immediately recover the fawns discovered in it, reported Michael Ehlers from the fawn rescue. Since the field was located on a motorway, the risk was too great that startled deer would cause an accident.
Instead, the farmer was informed and offered to walk in front of him with the human chain or alternatively to search the meadow again in the evening. The 35-year-old did not respond to this. Later, the rescuers learned about the sad incident. Ehlers, who testified as a witness in the trial, filed a complaint a few days later. He was disappointed with the outcome of the trial. From his point of view, all those involved had acted irresponsibly.
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Fawns that are only a few days old do not yet have an instinct to flee and press themselves motionless to the ground in case of danger. Even if the flight instinct kicks in a little later, they can't flee from mowing vehicles fast enough, Ehlers said. In the region, the incident had caused a great stir and also hostility. With the exception of the convicted 35-year-old, all defendants expressed great regret in their closing remarks. "We would never have mowed if we had known about the fawns," said the 31-year-old.
According to the German Wildlife Foundation, thousands of fawns die under mowers every year. There are no more precise figures, as farmers often do not report such incidents, according to spokesman Andreas Kinser. However, according to him, the numbers are falling: the farmers show more understanding, and the techniques for detecting fawns in meadows are very precise thanks to the drones.
Nationwide, there are now numerous fawn rescue initiatives in which hundreds of volunteers are involved, says Kinser. Again and again, animal rights activists appeal to farmers to have their meadows searched before mowing. Thermal imaging drones are then used to fly over the fields. If a fawn is discovered, the rescuers go into the field, secure the fawn in baskets and bring it to safety. Dpa