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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before