A man has been jailed after neglecting an entire farm of animals – creating what a judge has described as ‘a total animal welfare disaster’.
Mark Downes, 50, was looking after a farm in Sue Smith’s farm Bristol – in return for leaving his horses on her land. But he was described as ‘inadequate to the task’ by District Judge Lyn Matthews.
Downes’ neglect led to ‘appalling conditions’: sheep, pigs, cows and horses were found dead and dying, carcasses were left to rot in barns and fields, and pigs were forced to eat corpses where they could find them. The judge added that Downes had also failed to look after his own horses, who were ‘effectively running wild’.
Downes was convicted of a staggering 22 animal welfare offences, including leaving whole groups of sheep, pigs, horses and goats in pitiful states.
Judge Matthews said: “When the RSPCA arrived at Ingst Manor Farm in March 2015 they were greeted with a total animal welfare disaster.
“Animals were dead, dying and suffering. The farm itself was in a dire state. Immediately visible were two horses that were dead by the gate. There were 12 to 18 inches of slurry, concealing dangerous ironworks and the bodies of dead animals.”
Calf with dead mother
She added: “Living cattle with no access to food and water were sharing a barn with dead cattle. One calf was stood by a dead cow and the impression that those there had was that was its mother.
“On the opposite side of the barn were a flock of sheep – some living, some dead and decaying. The conditions were appalling.
“Clearly any system in place had failed, and judging by the degrees of decay of the dead bodies, this hadn’t been a recent incident. Pigs were eating the remains of other animals.”
Downes was jailed for 32 weeks, after Judge Matthews imposed eight-week prison sentences on him, arranged into four different groups.
Sentences within each group are to served concurrently, but each group sentence will be served consecutively.
He was also ordered to pay £1,000 in costs, and was banned from keeping farm animals – pigs, sheep, goats, horses and cattle – for life.
Farm owner Sue Smith, 60, who was convicted of 36 offences at an earlier hearing, faces a much longer prison sentence after the judge decided her sentencing powers weren’t great enough.
Smith has been convicted of charges relating to the neglect between 2014 to 2016, and now faces more charges relating to further neglect and appalling abuse dating from the autumn of 2017.
The prosecution has lasted almost two years, with sentencing adjourned until July 25. The length of the prosecution, as well as other factors – including disposing of dead animals, expert fees, and paying to look after the living animals – mean the case has cost the RSPCA and South Gloucestershire Council’s trading standards animal welfare team around £384,000.