Battle to save lives of horses after 'unprecedented' cruelty

A A A

Dozens of sick and malnourished horses were being nursed back to health yesterday following one of the worst cases of animal cruelty in recent history.

Animal welfare workers have been working through the night to save the 81 surviving horses that suffered severe neglect at a Buckinghamshire farm. It is believed that Spindles Farm, in Hyde Heath village, near Amersham, was being used as a site to prepare the animals for slaughter.

When police and RSPCA officers raided the property on Friday, they discovered some of the worst conditions they had seen. The British Horse Society's welfare executive Lee Hackett said that mistreatment on this scale was "unprecedented" in Britain, adding: "The true horror of the situation is only now becoming clear".

More than 100 animals were crammed into pens on the site. Of these, 81 were alive, but in an advanced state of starvation and ill health, while a further 31 were found dead. Three of the horses were suffering so badly that they had to be put down immediately.

The youngest of the animals found alive on the farm – a two-month-old foal that rescuers named Esther – is already showing signs of recovery. The animal welfare experts who found the young horse say it is "incredible" that she survived such awful conditions.

Susan Lewis, of the Buckinghamshire charity The Horse Trust, which took the most critical cases, said the condition of the horses was improving. "They were on death's door when the RSPCA arrived, but we're very hopeful now."

However, according to the trust, the neglect was so advanced that it will be a long time before they can be given new homes. "They will be with us for a number of weeks before we can even begin to assess them," said Ms Lewis. "For now we are just giving them plenty of vitamins, food and water, and giving them the chance to recover".

Some of the horses and donkeys were tethered so tightly to posts that they could not lie down. They appeared to have been abandoned without food and water, and were surrounded by the carcasses of those that had not survived.

For many of the animals the road to good health will be very long. A spokeswoman for the Redwings Horse Sanctuary, where many of the horses are being kept, said: "Some of them just won't let anyone near them at all. We have to put those through a gradual handling programme and let them recover before we eventually release them into a herd."

The RSPCA has launched an investigation into the horse-meat trader Jamie Gray, 44, who ran Spindles Farm and is believed to have paid as little as £1 for some of the animals on his property. If charged and convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to animals, Mr Gray could face a 12-month prison sentence and a fine of up to £20,000.

Animal Aid said the raid has highlighted the increasingly brutal trade in British horse-meat for the French market. Dene Stansall, a consultant for the charity, said it was an area of "great concern" to them.

Mr Stansall said that over-breeding was the root of the problem, because unwanted pets and racehorses become a nuisance to owners, who then abandon or give them away to unscrupulous dealers.

He added: "You can get former racehorses for free now, because they become a financial burden. "It's a growing problem that needs to be addressed by the Government or more and more cases similar to this will come to light, and more horses will suffer."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Life and Style
life
News
‘The Graduate’, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, was directed by Nichols in his purple period
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager