#TheList farmworkers James Dove, born c. 1985, of 4 Arundel Road, Wymondham NR18 0JE and Geoffrey Towell, born c. 1958, of 1 White Elm Cottage, Eccles Road, Norwich NR16 2JE – for repeated acts of cruelty towards sows and piglets
Geoffrey Twell 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 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 2011 by an undercover activist from Animal Equality showed the men beating pigs on Harling Farm in Thetford.
Sentencing the defendants, 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 [Stephen Brown who committed suicide in February 2012 after the animal cruelty came to light] 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.”
“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.”
Sentencing: Geoffrey Towell was imprisoned for 18 weeks and banned from working with animals for ten years (expires August 2022).
James Dove 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 (expired August 2017).