Seminal Judgement Will Protect Bees from Pesticide Misuse

Today, the Higher Regional Court of Graz (Oberlandesgericht Graz) passed down a landmark decision in the final instance. Dietmar K., a fruit farmer in Carinthia, was sentenced to four months imprisonment and a 6,000 euro fine. This new case law is a great success, and not only for the Austrian beekeepers, but for the entire population.

Massive Bee Mortality

In May 2017, the Carinthian farmer had violated the state plant protection law by applying toxic pesticides in his blossoming orchards. It is strictly forbidden to treat air and soil with pesticides during the periods of blossoming and the associated bee flight. Millions of bees and other useful insects died in agony, shocked children filmed the dying bees with their mobile phones, and the pictures appeared in the evening news.

Compensation for Beekeepers

In addition to the animal suffering, the neighbouring beekeepers suffered great economic damage due to the mass death of their bee populations. The public prosecutor’s office in Klagenfurt instituted criminal proceedings against the farmer on the basis of the beekeepers’ charges. The farmer, who did not display any remorse or understanding during the inquiries, was indicted. Represented in the criminal proceedings by the prominent Viennese business lawyer Dr. Ernst Brandl as a private party, a neighbouring beekeeper has now been awarded damages in the amount of 14,700 euros, and a second beekeeper 5,600 euros.

A Hefty Fine for the Poison-Spraying Farmer

Dr. Ernst Brandl commented on this trend-setting verdict: “For my clients and all nature-loving people in Austria, I am delighted that the Higher Regional Court of Graz has now come to the legally binding conclusion that the misuse of pesticides must be severely punished. A (conditional) custodial sentence plus a high fine send a clear message to all those who believe that pesticides can be used without regard to the environment and the relevant legal provisions”.