Farmer denies leaving cattle to die

A senior vet called to a herd of cattle trapped in a mud-soaked quagmire told a court yesterday that it was the worst case of animal neglect he had seen in a career spanning almost three decades.

A senior vet called to a herd of cattle trapped in a mud-soaked quagmire told a court this week that it was the worst case of animal neglect he had seen in a career spanning almost three decades.

Giving evidence at King's Lynn Magistrates' Court, Defra veterinary surgeon Alan Hurst said he hoped never to see such a case again.

However, the Tivetshall farmer accused of leaving his cattle to die in a such conditions has denied all the charges against him and told a judge he intended to defend himself against the allegations.

David Fryatt, 65, appeared at court to face 13 charges including causing unnecessary suffering to animals and failing to provide his herd with a well-drained lying area.

Vets and trading standards officers visited his premises at Pear Tree Farm on March 31 after serving an improvement notice in February.

They discovered the carcasses of at least 14 cows and calves amid slurry which was waist-deep in places and strewn with broken farm machinery and rubbish.

Most Read

District Judge Tim Daber heard a similar number of surviving animals were removed from the yard, but two were in such poor health they were immediately put down to “avoid further suffering”.

Mr Hurst, a veterinary surgeon working with Defra's animal health agency, told the court he found three dead cows upright in the mud 50 yards from the farmhouse which he believed had died from starvation or dehydration.

“The scenes I saw at these premises, in particular these three animals, were the most appalling case of neglect I have ever seen in 28 years as a qualified vet,” he said.

“The conditions were absolutely horrific and I found Mr Fryatt's attitude disturbing. In this welfare-friendly nation it disturbs me that someone finds it acceptable to keep animals in these conditions. I pray that if I live to be 100 I never see it again. These animals were buried up to the shoulders in this deep mixture of mud, dung and slurry.”

Trading standards officers also removed more than 30 animals from the farm's neighbouring field when fears were raised that a lack of dry lying areas would lead to similar suffering.

But Fryatt disputed allegations about his stockmanship, claiming most of the animals removed from the field were “fit for slaughter” and that no problems were found with his herd at nearby Holly Farm.

Another dead calf was found entangled in wire mesh, and two ponies were rescued by the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH) after they were found with overgrown hooves.

Trading standards officer Paula Cooper said: “I tried to persuade Mr Fryatt we could help but he said he would rather shoot the ponies than give them to the ILPH.”

The charges include eight of causing unnecessary suffering, two of obstructing trading standards officers, two of failing to ensure appropriate animal care, and one of failing to adhere to carcass disposal regulations.

Alan Wheetman, prosecuting for Norfolk County Council's trading standards department, said Fryatt had also failed to isolate sick animals from the herd and protect them from adverse weather.

On day two of the trial Mr Wheetman read a series of reports concerning the welfare of the surviving animals.

Jonathan Jackson, field officer for the International League for the Protection of Horses - now known as World Horse Welfare - said: “It was clear the animals were not handled and were verging on feral. On at least two occasions cattle went in up to their bellies and had to be pulled out.”

Hannah Kelly, a vet who examined two ponies taken to the league's centre at Snetterton, said both creatures were suffering from overgrown hooves and laminitis, an inflammation of the foot.

Another vet, Molly McKay, reported obvious signs of mange on the rescued cattle and said one pregnant heifer was found with a serious abscess and another cow was found with fractures in its limbs that appeared to have healed unaided.

The court also heard Fryatt had not been paid his annual subsidy from Defra's Rural Payments Agency which he was awaiting to pay for feed blocks to correct magnesium deficiencies in his cattle's blood - which he said was the reason they were sick.

Fryatt, defending himself, was due to present his case yesterday, but during questioning he criticised the “high-handed and misguided attitude” of trading standards officers. He also disputed the severity of the quagmire.

“The muck was no more than boot-deep and had concrete underneath,” he said. “The area was dry enough to drive a tractor around on.”

The trial continues.

Read updated reports of the trial on the Mercury's website