Horses unable to stand up were left to die in excruciating pain on lands in west Clare under the control of a 66-year-old farmer three years ago.
At Ennis Circuit Court, Det Garda Donal Corkery made his comment as he showed to a court a selection of stark photographs outlining the neglect suffered by cattle and horses at various land holdings under the control of Martin Gerald Foley.
In the case, bachelor farmer, Mr Foley of Lislanihan, Kilkee pleaded guilty to 20 sample charges out of a total of 193 charges first brought against him.
The animal welfare charges relate to cattle and horses at locations in west Clare at Lisdeen, Lislanihan, Donoghboy, Dough and Baltard on dates between March 2014 and April 2016.
In a separate case also before the court today, Mr Foley has also pleaded to dumping 12 animal carcasses over Cliffs at Baltard, Doonbeg in west Clare in April 2014.
A pyre to cremate the remains of the eight horses and four cattle required two tonnes of coal, 90 bags of timber and 90 bags of kindle.
In relation to the neglect case, Supt Veterinary Inspector for the Clare-Limerick area for the Department of Agriculture, Dr Lorna Meaney told the court today: “The overall scale and severity of this is unprecedented.”
On an inspection of Mr Foley’s Lisdeen holding near Kilkee in March 2016, Dr Meaney said that she was taken aback by the welfare conditions “and some of the bovine animals in Lisdeen were in pretty appalling condition”.
Dr Meaney said that Mr Foley’s failure to provide basic levels of water and feed for the animals and his poor husbandry meant that he is in no position to look after any animals.
During their inspection department officials took photographs of decomposed animal carcasses and emaciated animals out in the open.
Det Corkery said that in 2014, Mr Foley had 100 cattle and 50 horses and up until May 2015, a total of 40 animals were unaccounted for.
Describing one photo of two horse carcasses in March 2016 on Foley lands, Det Corkery said that the two horses “had died in severe pain”.
He said that the two had been “paddling” their legs but were unable to get up from where they died in excruciating pain.
Dr Meaney said that 11 horses had to be delivered to the knackery between February and April 2016, which would be unprecedented.
The department seized 11 horses on April 20th, 2016 and one had to be put down straight away.
Dr Meaney said that Mr Foley had only acquired a herd number to allow him own cattle in April 2013 and the first complaint concerning the welfare of the animals was received in March 2014.
Dr Meaney said the most recent inspection by department officials at the end of May 2019 found that there were 100 horses on the lands.
She said that it was most disturbing that of four young horses only one had access to water and they were being fed very poor quality food made up of rushes and rotten material.
Dr Meaney said that this resulted in the department issuing Mr Foley with an Animal and Welfare Notice.
Counsel for Mr Foley, Pat Whyms BL said that his client coming to court on the cases “is a fall from grace” as Mr Foley is very well known in equine circles nationally.
Mr Whyms said: “He is not a cowboy. He is a person who has been involved with animals and especially horses all his life and involved at a very high level which involved caring very well for animals and in a condition over many years where they were able to compete.”
Mr Whyms said that Mr Foley competed successfully at the highest level in show-jumping and had the respect of his peers.
Mr Whyms said Mr Foley’s farm enterprise got very large, very fast.
He said: “Mr Foley got overloaded and overwhelmed and these issues arose and there is no getting away from that.
Mr Whyms said: “It is not a situation where animals were all the time in excruciating pain or dying or dead.”
Mr Whyms said that Mr Foley no longer holds cattle on his lands, having disposed of them last year.
Judge Gerald Keys said that the photos in the case “speak for themselves”.
Judge Keys adjourned the case to October 29th and remanded Mr Foley on bail to sell all of the horses on his lands.
Mr Foley has also agreed to provide the exact number of stock currently, not to purchase any other horses and record all sales.
Judge Keys told Mr Foley that he was “making no promises” in relation to sentence.