CRUEL cattle rustlers have beaten a defenceless calf to death in an act that has shocked hardened police and animal welfare advocates.

The killing was described as "appalling and senseless" by a senior Gladstone police officer.

Senior Sergeant Jason Chetham, of Gladstone police, said the poor little animal was cruelly bashed between Sunday night and early Monday at West Stowe.

"At the scene the owners found a dead calf that had obviously been hit with something blunt to the head," Sgt Chetham said.

Three cattle were also stolen.

"The theft of the cattle is concerning - they're worth about $650 each, and also on top of that there was the senseless killing of a defenceless calf at the scene."

He said the owners were distressed at the find.

"It's an absolutely senseless crime. You can't understand what people are thinking when they do that," he said.

Sgt Chetham said the Stock Squad was investigating the death and the theft of three cows and urged anyone with information to come forward.

The news was revealed as anti-cruelty protesters gathered in front the Gladstone Magistrates Court on Tuesday as three people faced charges on an unrelated incident.

Protest organiser and animal advocate Judy Whicker said the crime was sickening.

"It makes me wonder at the mentality of these people, at how they'd get enjoyment or fun out of that," Ms Whicker said.

"These people need to be punished.

"It's absolutely disgusting that there are people walking on this earth, breathing our air, that would do something like that."

RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty said the killing showed a complete lack of empathy.

"There has been research that has linked serious animal cruelty to other forms of violence including violence against people and even to serial killers," he said.

"It is a concern and at the RSPCA we feel at the very least that people animal cruelty offenders need some kind of psychological assessment."

Fifth generation beef farmer Leo Neill-Ballantine said the news would make farmers in the region very angry.

"The act of stealing is bad enough and god only knows why they would do that to a defenceless calf," the Gladstone councillor said.

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