Cork pig farmer Rory O’Brien was sentenced to 18 months in prison yesterday (Thursday) on animal welfare grounds.

The farmer from Killicane, Mitchelstown, pleaded guilty to five charges of animal cruelty in front of Judge Sean O Donnabhain last week in Cork Circuit Court.

Details in the case, concerning the pig farmer included failing to treat a pig after it was found eaten alive on the pig farm that handled up to 20,000 pigs. Pigs were found without water on one inspection while pigs were left to die on the farm.

The court also heard that O’Brien was in financial difficulties and owes €22m to banks.

Judge Sean O Donnabhain said he had not come across anything like this before and that the level of cruelty was on an ‘industrial scale’.

The court also heard that pig farmer O’Briens’s wife, Monica, and farm manager, Seamus Curran, of Kiltrislane, Mitchelstown, had pleaded not guilty to some 88 charges dating back to 2011.

Both Monica O’Brien and Curran were discharged after the DPP entered a ‘no prosecution’ order in the case.

O’Brien was facing fines of up to €100,000 and/or three years imprisonment, while fines of up to €10,000 and/or two years imprisonment were also applicable for lesser charges of animal cruelty.

A jury was sworn in for the case, but after deliberations outside the courtroom last week it was deemed that there was no further need for a trial.

The five charges the pig farmer pleaded guilty date from between May and September 2011.