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East Harling: Farm worker jailed for animal cruelty at pig farm

18:18 17 August 2012

Geoffrey Towell, 54, arriving at Norwich magistrates

Geoffrey Towell, 54, arriving at Norwich magistrates' court for the Harling pig cruelty case. Photo: Bill Smith

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A FARM worker who beat and kicked pigs has been jailed for 18 weeks.

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Geoffrey Towell, 54, from East Harling in Norfolk, admitted animal cruelty in a case described by the district judge as “among the worst cases of animal cruelty I have seen.”

The stockman pleaded guilty to five counts of cruelty to pigs and piglets and one charge of failing to protect pigs from pain and suffering - contrary to the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Fellow farm worker James Dove, 27, from Wymondham in Norfolk was also given a suspended jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to two counts of cruelty and two counts of failing to protect pigs from suffering.

The horrific cruelty came to light after a member of Animal Equality carried out undercover filming while working at Harling Farm in East Harling, Norfolk.

Chief Inspector Mark Thompson, the RSPCA’s farm animal welfare officer, said: “The cruelty meted out by these two men was sickening.

“They showed absolutely no respect or compassion for the pigs in their care and instead treated them with hostility, violence and aggression.

RSPCA Inspectors attended the farm on February 10 after being made aware of footage which was filmed between July and September last year (2011).

The court heard Towell was filmed for two minutes hitting four sows with plastic pipe 59 times during a “sustained and violent assault”.

Towell was also filmed killing three pigs by hitting them on the head with a metal bar or gatepost, one while he shouted ‘fore’. The court heard it took multiple blows to kill the pigs and the emergency slaughter of animals of that size should have been carried out with a rifle or a captive bolt gun.

Towell also admitted using unnecessary force to handle piglets and one charge of failing to protect pigs from pain and suffering, by lifting pigs by the ears and dropping them from waist height.

He was jailed for 18 weeks and banned from the keeping, managing, husbandry, care or control of farm animals for 10 years.

Dove, who is now working as a lorry driver, pleaded guilty to two charges of cruelty by kicking and hitting sows with a plastic pipe and throwing pigs over a barrier.

He also pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to protect animals from suffering by lifting pigs by the ear and leg, dropping them to the ground and kicking them while moving them.

He was given an eight week jail sentence, suspended for a year, and ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work.

In mitigation both workers said they were sorry for their actions, that they had received no training and they had asked for help.

A third farm worker accepted a formal caution from the RSPCA.

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