Sheep farmer guilty of animal cruelty

A farmer from Chew Stoke has been found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to animals.

Edgar John Keedwell, 70, of Breach Hill Farm, Chew Stoke, was convicted of 13 offences following a two-day trial at North Somerset Magistrates Court, that concluded on Thursday 13 October.

The conviction follows an investigation by Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service with the support of the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

Keedwell was found to have caused unnecessary suffering to 19 sheep under his care which he kept in fields at Rains Batch, near Charterhouse, Somerset last winter.

The court heard that Keedwell had failed to seek veterinary advice for his animals who suffered variously from lesions, infections and lameness. One sheep was found to have an abscess.

He also failed to promptly isolate sick or injured sheep in suitable accommodation and,  despite requests by a visiting trading standards officer, failed to treat a ewe for flystrike.

When Devon and Somerset Trading Standards officers and the Animal and Plant Health Agency visited the site,  two of the affected animals were so weak and emaciated they had to be destroyed with the rest needing urgent treatment.

They also found dozens of rotting sheep carcasses in the fields containing live sheep and two large stockpiles of decomposing carcasses in a heap and in a trailer at the bottom of one of the fields.

Prior to the visits from Trading Standards, Keedwell had not consulted a vet as to why his flock had such a high mortality rate or taken appropriate steps for proper disposal.  He also failed to keep a record of mortalities.

Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Deputy Leader with responsibility for Trading Standards said:

“Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service take reports of farm animal welfare and carcass disposal contraventions very seriously.
“In this case, the farmer was clearly neglecting the welfare of his stock and he should have taken action sooner to protect his animals from unnecessary suffering.
“Farmers have a duty to collect and dispose of fallen stock without delay to an approved premises and they must keep records of mortalities.”

Council Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for Trading Standards, said:

“Laws are in place to control disease, protect animals and the safety of the wider food chain so it is important that stock management is carefully planned and preventative measures in place to stop standards falling below those that are acceptable.
“We support rural industry and the farming community and will work with businesses to get it right first time; but where poor practice and unnecessary suffering are discovered we are committed to taking action against those responsible.”

Sentencing will take place on Tuesday 8 November at North Somerset Magistrates’ Court.

Advice and guidance on the requirements for farm animal welfare and the disposal of fallen stock can be obtained from the Devon and Somerset Trading Standards website at: www.devonsomersettradingstandards.gov.uk

Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service offer free business advice in respect of animal health and welfare – this can be obtained by visiting our website www.devonsomersettradingstandards.gov.uk, filling in an online contact form, by email to tsadvice@devon.gov.uk or by calling 01392 381381 from Devon or 0300 123 2224 from Somerset. Officers also regularly attend livestock markets and carry out inspections of holdings and associated premises.