Fury over 'horrific' scenes of dead and malnourished sheep
PUBLISHED: 13:24 15 December 2019 | UPDATED: 08:55 16 December 2019
Villagers have described facing "horrific" scenes of dead and malnourished sheep on a patch of barren land linked to a young farmer who has been banned from keeping livestock for the next three years.
Tharston and Hapton Parish Council and local farmers raised repeated concerns about the welfare of the flock and the conditions they were being kept in.
People walking on a public footpath near the land, close to the village of Hapton, were left horrified by the scenes, said parish council chairman Nick Potter.
He said: "The incident occurred in the parish so I was suddenly getting a lot of first hand accounts of the atrocity that was going on. We started off with about 300 sheep arriving on three acres of barren land. Straight away people, farmers and parishioners, started recognising serious problems.
"The animals weren't being fed and watered, they were in lamb and they were escaping regularly as is there want when they don't have enough to eat and are seeking pasture."
Local farmer Carrie Burridge, who also teaches about animal husbandry at Easton College, said: "I was absolutely gobsmacked that they were even trying to keep 300 sheep on that land.
"There was no grass just bracken and mud. There were sheep off their legs with malnourishment. It was absolutely horrendous. I spoke to trading standards and said this is going to end badly."
The parish council lodged an official complaint to Norfolk County Council over what they saw as a lack of action by trading standards.
However at Norwich Magistrates Court earlier this month, Cameron Russell, 22, was given a disqualification order preventing him from keeping animals for three years and was forced to surrender his flock following a successful trading standards prosecution.
Russell, of Quebec Road in Norwich, pleaded guilty to seven animal welfare charges over sheep being kept in a field in Loddon.
MORE: Young farmer has flock taken away after sheep drowns in ditch
Norfolk Trading Standards has confirmed the case is linked to the sheep being kept in Hapton and has now detailed the action it took after receiving complaints.
In a letter to the parish council Sophie Leney, head of Norfolk County Council Trading Standards, states: "Our records show that, in the seven-week period between February 20 and April 8 2019, we visited the Hapton site 16 times.
"Of the 16 visits, 12 were unannounced, with no prior notice given to the livestock keeper. Many of the visits were in response to complaints that had been received. In this regard I find that we did respond to complaints and that the level of visits where the livestock keeper had no prior knowledge that we were coming was appropriate."
She adds that Russell was also issued with a warning letter over sheep that were untagged and an official notice about the provision of water and feed.
"On another occasion, we reminded him that there would be a need to provide supplementary feed in lieu of grazing," she adds.
Trading standards said it had been unable to give the parish council information about its actions prior to the court case as "we have to be very cautious about providing details to third parties on any active investigation as this is likely to jeopardise a successful prosecution, however now that the court case is over we have responded to the concerns raised locally."
Ms Leney said: "The outcome of the successful prosecution we brought against Cameron Russell reflects the seriousness of the offences. The key outcome from the conviction was that the livestock keeper has been banned from keeping — or having any involvement in the keeping of — any cloven hooved animals and poultry for three years."
Mr Potter said the parish council had raised its concerns in an effort to ensure swift action was taken to prevent animals suffering in future.
He said: "We are looking at the bigger picture of stopping this happening again because animals don't deserve to be treated like that. It was horrific and there was a lot of anger among parishioners who were walking past dead animals every day."