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Bromham farm fined £25,000 following multiple animal welfare offences

A Bromham farm has been fined £25,000 following a successful prosecution by Wiltshire Council animal health officers.

Published 12 June 2024

A Bromham farm has been fined £25,000 following a successful prosecution by Wiltshire Council animal health officers. 

Following the hearing at Bristol Crown Court, on Tuesday 11 June, Roger Keen Farms Ltd of Sandridge Farm, Bromham, was also ordered to pay £4,162 in costs and a victim surcharge.

The company had previously pleaded guilty on 7 May at Swindon Crown Court to charges of failing to meet the needs of his pigs and permitting unnecessary suffering to the animals.

Senior Animal Health Officers visited the farm, accompanied by a Senior Veterinary Inspector (SVI) from the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA), in August 2021. During the visit, 15 pigs were identified with health conditions, with the SVI requesting that five of those pigs were put down that day.

The euthanised pigs were sent for a post-mortem (PM) analysis. The PM report supported the officers' findings that the joint lesions found in four of the pigs were chronic in nature and were likely to have been present for at least several days or possibly weeks. These lesions were likely to have caused a considerable degree of suffering in live animals.

Following a separate inspection with the SVI, in September 2021, a further five pigs were humanely culled by company director, Roger Keen. Medical records showed that four of the pigs had only received medical treatment for the first time that day, with the fifth pig having never received any treatment. Three further pigs were to be either humanely killed or have further veterinary advice sought within 24-hours. The four pigs had not been isolated and were being kept with other healthy pigs and piglets.

When interviewed by officers, Mr Keen blamed his employees for the failings, but the evidence suggested that the major contributing factors were overcrowding and a lack of experienced staff at the farm. Roger Keen Farms Ltd stopped keeping pigs in September 2022.

Sophia Hepple, from the Royal College of Veterinary Science Specialist in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law acted as expert witness for the prosecution.  In her statement she said Mr Keen was responsible for multiple counts of permitting unnecessary suffering to pigs under his care and responsibility. The housing and accommodation were dirty, unhygienic and there were multiple examples of where there were unnecessary risks of injury or disease risk within the accommodation, due to lack of action to fix things promptly or to remove things promptly.

There was lack of environmental enrichment for the pigs, serious cases of tail biting, ear biting and cannibalism, yet no clear evidence to justify tail docking, because there were no records being kept of tail biting incidents, causes nor attempts to improve the environment for the pigs to try and reduce such incidents occurring."

One of the most serious issues was failure to take prompt action on ill and injured animals, including isolation into more appropriate hospital environments when necessary, treatment when necessary and a complete failure to seek veterinary advice or to cull the animals promptly when such animals failed to improve. Animals were allowed to suffer unnecessarily for weeks, with no clear decision-making being taken on chronically ill or injured pigs. Even when directly requested to euthanise animals by the APHA, staff appeared to avoid doing this.

Cllr Dominic Muns, Cabinet Member for Public Protection, said, The vast majority of Wiltshire's farmers and livestock owners take good care of their animals.

Wiltshire has a small and dedicated team of Animal Health and Welfare Officers who work to enforce the legislation designed to help protect animal health and welfare. When it is found that animals are not being taken care of properly, our hard-working officers won't hesitate to act decisively.

We're pleased with the court's decision in this case and hope that it sends a strong message this will not be tolerated in Wiltshire.

Further information on how to report concerns relating to the health and welfare of livestock can be found at www.wiltshire.gov.uk/trading-standards-livestock-health

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