Cruel farmer banned from keeping sheep

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A FARMER was banned from keeping sheep for life by a court yesterday after he admitted more than 80 offences of cruelty.

Winston George Tucker, 43, was fined pounds 5,000 by magistrates at Okehampton, Devon, and ordered to pay pounds 13,161 costs.

Peter Hill, chairman of the bench, told Tucker that the court had heard and seen 'a disgraceful example of animal husbandry which cannot be tolerated'.

Tucker, of Werrington, near Launceston, Cornwall, pleaded guilty to 15 charges of causing unnecessary suffering to sheep, ewes, lambs and a cow. He also admitted six charges of allowing carcasses to remain unburied, and one further charge of permitting a sheep to suffer pain. Tucker also asked for 50 offences relating to unburied carcasses, and 10 offences of causing unnecessary suffering, to be taken into consideration.

Martin Meeke, prosecuting for Devon trading standards, said the offences were committed on Tucker's 300-acre farm at St Giles on the Heath, Devon, where he kept 950 sheep, between last September and February this year.

Tucker, who also kept 970 sheep at Werrington, was paid a total of pounds 37,000 a year in European sheep premium on both flocks, he said.

The offences came to light during 13 visits by enforcement officers from Devon County Council and Ministry of Agriculture veterinary surgeons. The court watched their 15-minute videotape of conditions on the farm.

They found carcasses of sheep dead for weeks; carcasses of 30 sheep and a cow floating in a waterlogged pit; 20 sheep carcases in a pit covered by corrugated iron; and three sheep which had been attacked by crows and which had to be put down. There was 'a totally inadequate level of care', Mr Meeke said.

The European grants awarded to Tucker carried no conditions regarding the husbandry and welfare of animals, Stephen Butterworth, Devon trading standards officer, said after the case. He said it was a loophole that had been recognised by the Ministry of Agriculture.