Pair could be jailed over cruelty to pigs at Harling Farm, East Harling

PUBLISHED: 09:47 27 July 2012

Geoffrey Towell, 54, of Eccles Road, East Harling, and James Dove, 27, of Arundel Road, Wymondham, pleaded guilty to cruelty to pigs

Geoffrey Towell, 54, of Eccles Road, East Harling, and James Dove, 27, of Arundel Road, Wymondham, pleaded guilty to cruelty to pigs

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Two men guilty of causing cruelty to pigs by striking them and throwing them to the ground have been told they could face a prison sentence.

Geoffrey Towell, 54 from Eccles Road, East Harling, pleaded guilty to five counts of cruelty to pigs and piglets by hitting five sows with a plastic pipe – one was hit 35 times – unlawfully killing three pigs by hitting them on the head with a metal bar and using unnecessary force to handle piglets.

He also pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to protect pigs from pain and suffering by lifting pigs by the ears and dropping them from waist height.

James Dove, 27, from Arundel Road, Wymondham, pleaded guilty to two charges of cruelty by hitting sows with a plastic pipe and throwing pigs over a barrier and two charges of failing to protect pigs from suffering by lifting them with excessive force, lifting pigs by the ear and leg, dropping them to the ground and kicking them while moving them.

The court heard how the incidents, at Harling Farm, in East Harling, had been filmed between July 21 and September 30 last year by a colleague, later discovered to be an undercover activist for animal rights group Animal Equality.

Jonathan Eales, prosecuting, said: “Pig welfare says pigs should move at their own pace and too much noise and force should be avoided and sensitive parts of the body should not be struck.

“Excessive force should not be used and animals should not be moved by legs or tails. Unfortunately both defendants fell short of the care required in moving the pigs around the farm.”

Jamieson Plummer, mitigating on behalf of Towell, said “dispatching” of pigs by hitting them with a blunt instrument was not uncommon, but said his client was “ashamed” at the way it had been carried out.

“It’s not nice, but my client did nothing wrong in killing the pig, it is the method in which they were dispatched,” he said.

“The handling, however, my client accepts was not done in the correct way.

“My client had asked the farm for help, but the only person they could give was the person who took the film who was an activist and had his own agenda. He didn’t turn up on time on a lot of occasions and his help was not assisting my client, but filming.”

Ian Fisher, mitigating on behalf of Dove, said that his client had originally been hired as a tractor driver and that there was “no suggestion” he had killed any pigs.

“Much of what was shown does not relate to Mr Dove at all,” he added. “When he was interviewed he regretted what he had done and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.”

The case was adjourned for sentencing until August 17 for reports to be prepared, but district judge Peter Veits warned the pair he could not rule out a custodial sentence.

Owner of Harling Farm, Stephen Brown, was found dead on a farm track just days after an investigation into cruelty allegations was launched. An inquest found he had taken his own life while in a disturbed state of mind.

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