A farmer from Northern Ireland has been sentenced to prison for causing unnecessary suffering to animals.

Nigel Foster (55), of Whiterock Road in Killinchy was sentenced at Laganside Crown Court on 10 charges of causing unnecessary suffering to pigs, and one charge of failure to comply with animal by-products notice.

Foster received a 15-month custodial sentence on the 10 counts of causing unnecessary suffering, and an eight-month custodial sentence on the failure to dispose of the carcases, to run concurrently.

He will spend seven and a half months in custody and the same period on licence.

Unnecessary suffering

Foster also received a disqualification from keeping, owning, participating in keeping animals, being party to an arrangement under which animals are kept, from transporting and arranging transport of all animals for seven years, plus a £25 offender levy.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) was awarded costs of £7,582.

The case arose following a report to DAERA regarding the welfare of pigs, at an out farm, belonging to Foster.

When DAERA staff arrived at the premises they discovered dead pigs among living pigs, severely ill pigs and pigs suffering from starvation, as well as a large number of pig carcases, bones and body parts.

In the opinion of a divisional veterinary officer (DVO) present, over 90% of the pigs were showing signs of neglect, were not properly cared for, and had suffered unnecessarily over a long period of time.

This was a large, multi-agency operation involving the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), staff from DAERA’s Welfare and Enforcement Branch (WEB), staff from the local DAERA Direct Office and officers from the department’s Humane Slaughter Team who had to euthanise all the pigs on the premises.

According to DAERA, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) took this case in the Crown Court because it is one of the most serious, farm animal welfare related investigations undertaken by DAERA, and because of the higher penalties available.