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Gloucestershire Business News

Gloucestershire farmer jailed

A farmer from the Forest of Dean has been sent to prison for causing unnecessary suffering to a sheep which was found dead on his farm during an unannounced inspection.

Keith Barber, aged 72, of Joys Green, Lydbrook, appeared at Cheltenham Magistrates' Court on Wednesday 11 August to be sentenced.

At a hearing in June 2021, which was adjourned while a pre-sentence report was made, he had pleaded guilty to five charges brought by Gloucestershire County Council's trading standards service, relating to the welfare of his sheep and his failure to dispose of carcasses appropriately.

Magistrates today activated a suspended sentence he had previously been given and sentenced him to a total of 56 days in custody for the five charges and for similar offences brought by Forest of Dean District Council and Herefordshire Council.

He was also ordered to pay £200 towards costs and a disqualification order for all animals except his pet dog was granted for an indefinite period.

Barber had previously been disqualified from keeping pigs and cattle after being convicted of eight animal welfare offences at Cheltenham Magistrates' Court on 28 January 2019 when he was given an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

On 19 December 2019, trading standards officers visited the farm as part of an investigation into allegations that Barber was caring for cattle in breach of his disqualification. He subsequently admitted breaching this disqualification and in March 2020 was sentenced to 100 hours of community service.

At the same time, officers discovered in a shed at the farm, an extremely thin dead sheep on a filthy bed of wet muck alongside two other live sheep, which were showing signs of sheep scab, which causes itching and soreness and is painful for affected animals. A dead turkey and a dead chicken were also found in other pens on the farm.

Farmers are legally required to treat any sheep displaying signs of scab but despite being advised to call his vet to inspect and treat the sheep, Barber failed to do so.

A post mortem was carried out which revealed that the animal had been kept in filthy, squalid conditions for some considerable time prior to its death and also had sheep scab.

Sophia Hepple, an Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA) vet, said: "Barber failed to provide correct nourishment and prompt treatment and his lack of action led to post mortem findings consistent with starvation."

Barber also previously pleaded guilty to failing to dispose of the carcasses of two other sheep which were found on his land by vets from the APHA on 15 November 2019 as well as the sheep and poultry carcasses found on the farm on 19 December 2019.

Cllr Dave Norman, cabinet member responsible for trading standards, said: "It is vitally important that animal welfare standards are adhered to and that the public can be confident that food produced in the county is reared to the highest standard. This custodial sentence and the action taken by trading standards send out a clear message that any farmers failing to care for their animals will be prosecuted."

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