A farmer has been given a five-month suspended prison sentence and has been banned from keeping or caring for farmed animals for 10 years after he was prosecuted for the illegal slaughter of pigs.

73-year-old Robert Emerson of Arkwright House, Orchard Road, Broughton Astley, was prosecuted by Leicestershire County Council trading standards for the offences.

He plead guilty to two charges under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 when he appeared at Leicester Magistrates Court.

Emerson’s prison sentence was suspended for 12 months and he was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £128. The order that banned him from keeping farmed animals can be revoked after three years.

Illegal slaughter

The council said the court heard that the offences took place at Far Hill Farm, Dunton Road, Leire, on December 11, 2021.

An off-duty police officer drove past the premises in Leire and saw a large group of men at the site and suspected an illegal cannabis factory.

A police dog unit arrived at the premises, where the 30-40 men were gathered to buy pigs from Emerson to be eaten at Christmas.

The pigs were being sold live for £170 each before being killed illegally on the premises, Leicestershire County Council said.

Four recently killed pigs were found in the farmyard and another pig had been loaded into the back of a car.

Approximately 130 pigs in “conditions unfit for their needs” were found and seized by trading standards animal welfare officers at the site.

Gary Connors, head of Leicestershire Trading Standards Service, said Emerson’s case was a “distressing” one in which “greed played its part”.

“Robert Emerson found an opportunity to make money from his animals by selling them for the Christmas table.

Connors said there was evidence that Emerson was under pressure, but that this did not excuse his actions.

“Instead, he decided to place money before the welfare of his animals. This not only caused unnecessary suffering to his animals, but also posed a risk to the human food chain,” he said.

“Leicestershire County Council Trading Standards will not tolerate this type of activity and will not hesitate to take enforcement action.”

A ‘broken man’

In mitigation, the council said, Stephen Cadwaladr for the defence told the court that Emerson had a “long association” with the farming community and had been a successful and reputable pig breeder.

He said that Emerson had come under pressure by a group of men to sell them pigs for supply to the food chain and also submitted medical evidence relating to Emerson’s diagnosis with prostate cancer and prescription for antidepressants.

While passing the sentence, District Judge Jonathan Straw said: “I accept that you sit here now as a broken man, your reputation within the community that formerly held you in such high esteem now in tatters.

“All of those rosettes, trophies, accolades and titles all earned over time by your efforts and industry are now overshadowed, that partly through pressure and partly through greed, you were treating the animals that you once held so dearly in such a cruel and abandoning fashion.”