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WARNING STORY CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES: East Harling pig farm workers sentenced for abusing animals as protesters gather outside Norwich Magistrates’ Court

17:01 17 August 2012

Animal cruelty protesters at Norwich Magistrates

Animal cruelty protesters at Norwich Magistrates' Court. Photo: Bill Smith

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Two workers have been banned from working with animals after carrying out abuse at an East Harling pig farm.

David Powles, Digital Publisher, explains why we decided to use some of the RSPCA pictures from the case

We thought long and hard before deciding to include some of the horrific pictures of animal cruelty along with this story.

We understand that they will be particularly distressing to many people.

However, as far as organisations such as the RSPCA are concerned, there is a very important reason why they encourage media organisations to include content like this in cases such as these – and that is to prevent it from happening again.

They believe that highlighting the brutality and consequences of behaving in such a way acts as a deterrent to other people who may be inclined to do the same thing.

It may also be a trigger to anyone who knows of similar acts taking place, but may be reluctant, for whatever reason, to report it to the relevant authorities.

It is the same logic that many police forces apply to the release of images of car crashes. If it makes someone think twice and change their actions – therefore saving just one life – then it is worth it as far they are concerned.

In the end we did decide that several of the images were unsuitable for use and were not in the public interest.

Hopefully these pictures will be enough to make anyone capable of such acts think again – and encourage anyone who knows that something like this happening to report it.

Geoffrey Towell, from Eccles Road, East Harling, was imprisoned for 18 weeks and banned from working with animals for ten years.

The 54-year-old pleaded guilty to five counts of cruelty to pigs and piglets by hitting five sows with a plastic pipe – one 35 times – unlawfully killing three pigs by hitting them on the head with a metal bar and using unnecessary force to handle piglets.

He also pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to protect pigs from pain and suffering by lifting pigs by the ears and dropping them from waist height.

James Dove, 27, from Arundel Road, Wymondham, was sentenced to eight weeks in prison, suspended for one year, ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work and pay prosecution costs of £300. Dove was banned from working with farm animals for five years.

He pleaded guilty to two charges of cruelty by hitting sows with a plastic pipe and throwing pigs over a barrier and two charges of failing to protect pigs from suffering by lifting them with excessive force, lifting pigs by the ear and leg, dropping them to the ground and kicking them while moving them.

Undercover footage taken between July and September last year by an undercover activist from Animal Equality showed the men beating pigs on Harling Farm in East Harling.

Sentencing the defendants at Norwich Magistrates Court this afternoon (Friday), District Judge Peter Veits said Towell had acted with “no care” and although Dove had played a “lesser” role, his behaviour was “abysmal”.

“These are amongst the worst cases of cruelty I’ve seen,” he added.

Speaking in mitigation of Towell, Jamieson Plummer told the court his client was under pressure while working at the farm.

“There were 300 pigs there and he asked the owner for help and the help that came was the activist who had a different agenda and so he was still single-handed trying to look after the pigs,” he said.

Mitigating on behalf of Dove, Ian Fisher, said the likelihood of the defendant re-offending was “microscopic”.

“Public shaming brings with it its own very unusual punishment,” he added. “He wasn’t in any sort of position of control and was drawn into the situation that he had no training for and was only involved in this because of the shortcomings in the system.”

Animal welfare protesters demonstrated outside Norwich Magistrates’ Court as the men walked in, shouting “shame, shame on you” as Dove entered the court building and “scum” as Towell arrived.

A spokesman from Essex Animal Defenders said: “We think the custodial sentence for animal abuses needs to be increased.

“At the end of the day they only end up serving three or four weeks.

“When it’s farm animals the public don’t seem care as much as when it’s cats or dogs.”

Another protester, Joanne Robins from Great Yarmouth Animal Cruelty, said: “We’ve been campaigning for animals for some time now.

“This is local so it’s caught our attention and we’re hoping for a custodial sentence because it would give out a strong message.”

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