Farm owner jailed for 'animal welfare disaster' which saw sheep, pigs and cattle left to rot
A FARMER from Olveston has been jailed for 18 months for what a vet described as an "animal welfare disaster".
Susan Smith, of Ingst Manor Farm, has also been banned for life from keeping all animals.
The 61-year-old was found guilty of 19 Trading Standards and animal welfare offences when she appeared at Bristol Magistrates’ Court in June last year. She returned for sentencing yesterday after failing to overturn 15 of her convictions on appeal.
The case was jointly brought by South Gloucestershire Council and the RSPCA after an animal welfare complaint brought council officers and RSPCA inspectors to the farm.
They found livestock in poor health and a large number of animal carcasses in various states of decay. A number of animals were removed for welfare reasons over the following months.
Visits were made over the next two-and-a-half years, with more sheep and other animals found in a poor condition and carcasses in various states of decay were also found.
The charges included failure to dispose of the bodies of 50 sheep, eight cattle, two pigs and various bags of animal bones in March 2015 and 26 sheep carcasses in April 2016; failure to comply with movement and identification rules for cattle; failure to produce medicine records; and sourcing feed from an unregistered premises in contravention of feed hygiene rules.
Smith pleaded guilty to further charges brought following welfare visits in 2017.
Vet Dr David Martin described the situation in court as “nothing short of a total animal welfare disaster” and said the situation took weeks and months of cumulative poor husbandry and neglect to reach the disaster levels which were discovered by RSPCA inspectors.
He said: “I can think of no good reason to explain the presence of a horse’s hoof in amongst deep slurry in a pig pen, other than to reach the obvious conclusion that the body of a horse has been fed to the pigs.”
He also noted that the level of mortality on the farm was exceptionally high in all species and said the mortality rate of the sheep was approx 58%.
The flock was infected with untreated sheep scab, for which the vet said treatment is easily provided by use of injectable products which can be bought either from a vet or an agricultural merchant. Many sheep had fractures to limbs because of the hazardous environment in which they were being kept.
Dr Martin also raiseed particular concern at the fact that the pigs were cannibalising their dead, as he said this is associated with extremely high risk of serious disease.
South Gloucestershire cabinet member for communities, Rachael Hunt, said: “This was a shocking case, where a large number of animals endured unnecessary suffering. We are pleased to finally see this case reach its conclusion and that the judge recognised the severity of the offences and handed out considerable punishment.
“Failure to comply with animal by-product and movement record rules are serious breaches of legislation which aim to control disease risks, ensure livestock traceability, and protect the integrity of the food chain. Not only do some diseases pose a risk to public health, the spread of animal diseases can have a devastating effect on farmers and the rural economy. This person has shown an ongoing disregard for these rules and a failure to take on board any advice given to them.”
RSPCA inspector Miranda Albinson, who described the farm as one of the worst cases of animal cruelty ever seen by the charity, said: “The conditions at the farm were upsetting. The suffering of the animals will stick in the minds of all those who helped with the rescue. It was heartbreaking.”