Farmer convicted of cruelty after lambs found starving in trailer

Court fined Galwayman €750 over ‘disgraceful’ cruelty and €500 for an unburied carcass

Department of Agriculture veterinary inspector Michael O’Brien said that when he visited the farm in November 2013 it was a “catastrophe”. Photograph: The Irish Times

Department of Agriculture veterinary inspector Michael O’Brien said that when he visited the farm in November 2013 it was a “catastrophe”. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

A farmer with 41 previous convictions for animal welfare offences has been fined after pleading guilty to two more cruelty cases.

PJ Shiel (46) from Reaskmore, Craughwell, Co Galway, was fined €750 after being convicted at Loughrea District Court on Wednesday of cruelty to two lambs who were found starving in a trailer.

Shiel, a single man who was accompanied in court by his 81-year old mother, was also fined €500 for having an unburied carcass on his farm.

Shiel, who the court was told had a number of medical problems, has also been prohibited from having more than five animals on his farm at any time.

Judge Geoffrey Browne was told that there was a history of animal welfare problems with the farmer.

Department of Agriculture veterinary inspector Michael O’Brien said that when he visited the farm in November 2013 it was a “catastrophe”.

Generational animal slurry was mixing with grain in the farmyard and it was so toxic that inspectors had to dispose of all their clothes afterwards.

Mr O’Brien said he found two small lambs in a trailer in a field and it was obvious that they had not been fed for some time and there was no water for them and no bedding. “I ran my hand on their backs and they were all skin and bone,” he said.

Shortcomings

He said he got a bad “whiff” nearby and on investigation found the carcass of a weanling calf which had been dead for some time and had not been buried.

He said the field was “strewn with machinery” and that lengths of barbed wire were looping out of the ground.

Mr O’Brien said that there had been ongoing issues with Shiel over the years. There were massive infra-structural shortcomings on the farm, there was no fencing or gates.

There was no segregation of animals by age or sex and that when feed was issued, many of the smaller or younger animals did not get fed. “The strongest animals got the most,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said that it was difficult to get Shiel to test his animals on his farm when he kept around 70 bovines and a similar number of sheep.

The court was told that Shiel had previously received a suspended prison sentence for animal cruelty and subsequently hired an agricultural contractor to rectify matters but while the animals seemed to be fed, there were still serious infra-structural shortcomings.

“It is disgraceful,” said Judge Browne. “This man has learned nothing and there has been no improvement.”

Defence solicitor Gearóid Geraghty said that Shiel lived with his 81-year-old mother and there was no one else to look after the animals or farm.

Judge Browne fined him €750 in respect of the cruelty to the lambs and a further €500 for having an unburied carcass and issued an order that Shiel get rid of the majority of his herd and not have more than five animals on his farm at any given time.