Farm workers spared jail despite being caught stabbing pigs with pitchforks

Three farm workers who cruelly mistreated ‘defenceless’ pigs by repeatedly kicking them in the face and stabbing them with pitchforks, have been spared jail.

The main culprit was a supervisor who, ironically, was actually the farm’s designated animal welfare manager responsible for animal welfare practice, a court heard.

The RSPCA brought a prosecution following an undercover investigation at Fir Tree Farm in Goxhill, Lincolnshire, by animal rights group Animal Equality.

Workers filmed abusing and brutalising pigs in Lincolnshire

Hidden cameras were put inside the farm and uncovered horrific footage of abuse, Grimsby Magistrates’ Court heard.

Troy Wagstaff, 30, admitted abusing numerous pigs between April 2 and April 27 by causing unnecessary suffering through inflicting blunt force trauma and physical violence.

Wagstaff denied a second charge of abusing a pig by spraying paint into its nose. The prosecution offered no evidence on that matter.

Gavin Hardy, 39, admitted causing unnecessary suffering to two pigs at the farm through inflicting blunt force trauma, physical violence and the inappropriate use of a pitchfork between April 25 and 27.

Artirs Grogprkevs, 32, admitted abusing pigs between April 10 and April 27, by causing unnecessary suffering to four pigs through inflicting blunt force trauma, physical violence and the inappropriate use of a pitchfork, when knowing that the act was likely to have this effect.

The trio had been warned they faced jail during their previous hearing.

Cameras were planted in Fir Tree Farm after suspicions that pigs were being ill-treated.

In the footage, pigs’ squeals can be heard as they try to escape from the men around the pens.

Gordon Holt, prosecuting for the RSPCA, told the court that there was ‘repeated abuse and cruelty’ to ‘multiple pigs’.

Wagstaff was the unit’s supervisor for nine months and had worked there since 2006.

He was the designated animal welfare manager and had monthly meetings with others about animal welfare practice.

Hardy was a stockman and had worked at the farm for about 20 year and Grogprkevs had worked with pigs for about nine years.

All three had been sacked from their jobs after being suspended.

None of the men had any previous convictions.

Richard Hackfath, mitigating, said Wagstaff had worked as a stockman for many years without complaint.

There was no serious injury, although pain would have been caused, and the pigs were quite clearly in distress. There were no deaths.

Wagstaff had rescued pigs from a burning building at the farm in February last year and, on another occasion, rescued piglets from flooding there.

Wagstaff had shown ‘extreme remorse’ for what he had done, the court was told.

Mr Hackfath said: ‘He doesn’t seek to excuse what he has done in any way, shape or form. He bitterly regrets his actions.’

All three defendants were given an eight-week suspended prison sentence, 100 hours of unpaid work, and were banned from working with or transporting commercial livestock indefinitely.

They must each pay £500 costs and a Government-imposed £115 victims’ surcharge.

After the hearing, Dr Toni Shephard, executive director of Animal Equality, said: ‘Obviously, it’s a disgustingly pathetic sentence.

‘Animals were beaten every single day that there were cameras inside those sheds.

‘This sentence just proves that laws and labels can’t protect can’t protect animals from suffering on farms. The only way to stop this cruelty is to choose meat-free options.’

RSPCA inspector Rebecca Harper said: ‘The matter was thoroughly investigated by the RSPCA, which included speaking to all members of staff and management of the farm.

‘We were satisfied at the end of the investigation that this was the action of three men. The company itself wasn’t culpable.

‘Mr Wagstaff was the supervisor of the unit and had a position of extra responsibility and, sadly, he was the main perpetrator of repeated acts of cruelty and violence towards pigs.

‘The other two were also found to have been acting inappropriately but to a lesser extent.

‘Having watched the videos, it’s truly horrific, watching a man going and punching a pig for absolutely no reason when he wasn’t even moving or routinely handling them.

‘There was footage of Mr Wagstaff going into a pen and punching and kicking pigs and walking off again.

‘We were given the footage by Animal Equality, who did secret filming prior to our knowledge.’