A 30-year-old Maguiresbridge farmer has been banned from keeping livestock for life after DARD officials uncovered ‘shocking’ examples of animal cruelty.
William Beacom, of Middle Farm, Trasna Road, Maguiresbridge was sentenced to four months imprisonment suspended for three years at Enniskillen Magistrates Court and given a lifetime ban from keeping and owning farmed animals.
DARD Veterinary Service staff, who visited the farm on a daily basis from March 21, 2013 to April 20, 2013 uncovered high levels of animal cruelty, deprivation and starvation.
Over 20 carcasses of cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry were discovered in varying degrees of decomposition, while live cattle and pigs, which were starving, were discovered in direct contact with the dead animals.
DARD staff were ‘shocked’ at the conditions and noted an ‘above normal’ mortality rate at the farm, indicating poor husbandry.
On additional visits staff noted a build up of dung in cattle sheds, pigs ‘lean and empty looking’ and in one instance three cows and calves being kept in the unsuitable environment of a silage pit without water. Closer inspection revealed one of the cattle was drinking another’s urine. In another instance of cruelty a cow was found dead underneath a drinking container.
Slurry was observed to be running out over the slats and despite repeat visits from DARD staff Beacom was unable to meet the basic requirements for housing animals. A lack of food, water and dry area for bedding was noted as being bereft on the Maguiresbridge farm.
Defence barrister Craig Patton explained that it was due to a variety of reasons that the conditions on the farm deteriorated to such a degree. He told the court that the difficulties stemmed from the death of the defendant’s father when Beacom was unable to access the single farm payment.
That, along with poor silage, the death of his grain supplier by suicide and health problems suffered by his mother left the defendant without the money to sustain the farm.
“He knew what was going on wasn’t right, but had he known another way to handle things he would have done so,” explained Mr Patton.
He admitted it has been a difficult period in Beacom’s life and his mental health has suffered as a result of losing family, livestock and being left in £20,000 of debt. It was recorded in court that a local health psychiatrist had ‘quite grave concerns’ about the defendant taking his own life.
The barrister indicated that the livestock has since been sold on and Beacom now hoped to rebuild his credibility in the farming world and planned to undertake farm management courses.
District judge Nigel Broderick said these were serious matters and the court took a very dim view of anyone in the control of an animal where unnecessary suffering is caused. The judge acknowledged the contributing factors; namely the death of Beacom’s father, his mother’s illness ,deprived access to single farm payment and his cash flow situation, but could not ignore the offences.
“It is no way an excuse,” explained Mr Broderick, “but it does place into context what happened.” The judge ruled this was not a case of deliberate mistreatment, rather it was passive mistreatment.
The district judge also noted the ‘grave’ mental health concerns for the defendant and for that reason did not impose a financial penalty.
Mr Broderick was satisfied the custody threshold was crossed, but stated these were exceptional circumstances.
Beacom was convicted of one charge of causing unnecessary suffering to a bovine animal, one charge of failing to ensure the needs of animals were met to the extent required by good practice and one charge of failing to hold a carcase or part of a carcase of any farmed animal in such a manner as to ensure that any animal or bird would not have access to it. In imposing the lifetime ban the judge ruled that defendant could only apply to have it revoked after a period of two years.
Beacom has since decided to appeal this ruling on his own bail of £500.
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