An unhappy story first reported by BBC Norfolk back in February 2012 may be drawing to a close. This week, two farmworkers admitted causing unnecessary suffering to pigs in their care.
Geoffrey Towell, 45, and James Dove, 37, worked with the pigs at Harling Farm, East Harling, where they were filmed by an undercover member of the animal rights group, Animal Equality.
Towell was filmed throwing piglets and using a metal bar to beat sows. One unfortunate creature was clubbed 35 times by the worker. Dove was filmed kicking the pigs.
In all, 200 hours of video-recording and 300 photos were amassed by the vegan animal rights group, recorded between the 27th July and 30th September last year.
The RSPCA attended the farm after viewing the material, and started an investigation that led to the prosecution of the farmworkers.
Towell and Dove admitted charges of causing unnecessary suffering to the animals, and also admitted the charge of failure to protect pigs from suffering, contrary to the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
The BBC reports that the district judge at Norwich Magistrates’ Court, Peter Veits, adjourned sentencing until August, but commented that jail-time was a possibility for the offences.
RSPCA Inspector Ben Kirby said: “This has been a very sad case but we are pleased those responsible for this horrific cruelty have been brought before the courts and guilty pleas have been entered.”
Unfortunately, the married farm-owner and father of two, 52-year-old Stephen Brown, was found dead on his property shortly after the original footage was released. At the time, Norfolk police told Farmers Weekly it was a sudden death that occurred in non-suspicious circumstances.
Brown had been “gutted” by the revelations about his farm. Furthermore, after the publicity, his farm was suspended from the Red Tractor food quality assurance scheme, which aims to ensure responsible farming methods.
Although it is a step forward that the Animal Welfare Act is now in place to deter animal cruelty on farms, perhaps we should not forget the human tragedies that may be associated with such cases, especially in difficult financial times.