Farm animals ‘left to die’ because of funding cuts

Farm animals left without food and water are being left to die in a field amid claims that funding cuts in trading standards services means it is too costly to seize them, it has emerged.

Worried neighbours living close to a field of 20 sheep and a pony first raised the alarm last month after the animals were kept in crudely constructed paddock in a field at Foxhole, near Newton Flotman, South of Norwich, with little or no food and water.

Trading standards officials have been working with the animal owners, thought to be from Norwich, to try and sort out the welfare issues, but this week neighbours reported that two of the sheep had died, and they were concerned that they had not been given enough to eat and drink particularly during the recent hot weather.

Elsje Stocker, one of those who raised the alarm, said that while the dead animals were removed and examined by a Defra vet, officers said that they had been told by trading standard bosses that they could not seize the others because of 'budgetary constraints'.

Ms Stocker, 43, said: 'We were told they couldn't seize the animals because they did not have the money. They told us that they were going to work closely with the owners to make sure they looked after their stock, but since they have been supervising them, we have had two dead sheep - what sort of supervision is that?


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'The view of the officers we spoke to was they should be seized and it's a real shame for the guys on the ground, but to see animal welfare go out of the window because there isn't enough money, just isn't good enough.'

Jackie Lee-Smith, who also lives nearby, said: 'I think it's a sad state of affairs that trading standards can't do anymore than this, but I think there hands are tied to a certain extent.'

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County Hall figures show that the service's farm team had 10 staff, two less the previously, while �129,000 of Defra funding previously ring-fenced solely for the service has been absorbed into the main county council budget.

But Steven Reilly, spokesman for Norfolk County Council Trading Standards, denied that officers were putting costs before animal welfare stating they had opted to try and work with the animal owner to try overcome any issues before looking at enforcement action.

'In the first instance we always look to work with individuals to ensure welfare standards are met,' he said. 'However, if we believe the circumstances warrant it, we would not hesitate to remove animals.

'We are using our enforcement powers to actively work with the individual and we would also dispute an accusation that we are putting financial cost ahead of animal welfare.'

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