A farmer has been fined and slapped with a suspended prison sentence after illegally slaughtering pigs on his premises.
Leicestershire County Council said it prosecuted Robert Emerson after an off-duty police officer drove past a farm at Leire, near Broughton Astley, on December 11 2021.
Initially suspecting he had stumbled across a cannabis farm, he reported it to colleagues, who found pigs being killed illegally for Christmas orders.
When officers arrived at the premises, 30 – 40 men were congregated at the site to buy pigs from Mr Emerson to be eaten at Christmas. The pigs were being sold live for £170 each before being killed, illegally, on the premises.
Four recently-killed pigs were found lying on the farmyard, and another pig had been loaded into the back of a car. Approximately 130 live pigs were found by Trading Standards animal welfare officers at the site in conditions which were unfit for their needs.
Trading Standards seized the animals and immediately removed them to a place of safety, before applying to the Magistrates Court for the animals to be formally given over to Trading Standards for disposal.
At court, Mr Emerson entered guilty pleas to a section 4(2) Animal Welfare Act 2006 offence of permitting others to engage in cruelty on the premises (slaughter of the pigs and related operations such as tying up the animals with no water and no dry lying area prior to killing). He also pleaded guilty to single Animal By-Products offence which related to the generation of viscera at the scene.
In mitigation, Stephen Cadwaladr for the defence told the court that Mr Emerson had a long association with the farming community and had been a successful and reputable pig breeder. He said that two months before the offences occurred, a vet had visited the farm and found the pigs were being appropriately kept and cared for.
He said that Mr Emerson had come under pressure by a group of men to sell them pigs for supply to the food chain. He also submitted medical evidence concerning Mr Emerson’s declining health, telling the court that he has prostate cancer and has been put on antidepressants.
He added: “One can’t underestimate the effect of this court appearance on this man, the shame that he feels cannot be overstated.”
Passing sentence, District Judge Jonathan Straw said: “I accept that you sit here now as a broken man, your reputation within the community that formerly held you in such high esteem now in tatters. All of those rosettes, trophies, accolades and titles all earned over time by your efforts and industry are now overshadowed, that partly through pressure and partly through greed, you were treating the animals that you once held so dearly in such a cruel and abandoning fashion.”
Mr Emerson’s sentence was suspended for 12 months. He was also fined £1,500 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £128. The order banning him from keeping or caring for farmed animals was imposed for 10 years, with three years before he can apply to have it revoked.
Following the sentencing, Head of Leicestershire County Council Trading Standards Service, Gary Connors, said: “This has been a distressing case in which greed played its part. Robert Emerson found an opportunity to make money from his animals by selling them for the Christmas table. While there was some evidence of pressure being placed upon him, he did nothing to stop it. Instead, he decided to place money before the welfare of his animals.
“This not only caused unnecessary suffering to his animals, but also posed a risk to the human food chain.”