Disqualified farmer guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to sheep

A disqualified farmer in Gloucestershire has pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a sheep which inspectors found dead on his farm during an unannounced inspection

Keith Barber, aged 72, of Joys Green, Lydbrook, also pleaded guilty to failing in his duty of care to two other sheep.

He appeared at Cirencester Magistrates’ Court on June 7, and pleaded guilty to five charges, brought by Gloucestershire County Council’s trading standards service and relating to the welfare of his sheep and his failure to dispose of carcasses appropriately.

Sentencing was adjourned to August 11, while a pre-sentence report is made. Barber will also be sentenced for similar offences brought by Forest of Dean District Council and Herefordshire Council on the same day.

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

On December 19, 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.

Inspection findings

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 had failed to provide correct nourishment and prompt treatment and his lack of action led to post-mortem findings consistent with starvation.

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

“The action taken by trading standards reflects the suffering caused to this animal and will ensure that no other animals will suffer at the hands of Keith Barber.”