Animal Equality Condemns Lenient Sentencing of Abusive UK Farm Workers

Animal Equality is extremely disappointed in today’s inadequate sentencing of Fir Tree pig farm workers convicted of abusing pigs in their care and condemns that these men were not given prison time for their violent crimes.

THE SENTENCING: On February 28, 2019, at Grimsby Magistrates Court in the UK, three men convicted of animal abuse received paltry sentences for their deliberate acts of cruelty. Troy Wagstaff – who was the supervisor and animal welfare manager at the farm and was filmed violently kicking pigs at least 20 times in just a few days – along with Gavin Hardy and Artis Grogprkevs, were each given an eight week suspended prison sentence and a community order of 100 hours of unpaid work. They were also ordered to pay court charges. During the sentencing, District Judge Daniel Curtis expressed his disgust with the crimes. “The footage is sickening to watch. I don’t draw any distinction between acts of violence against human beings and animals,“ he remarked. “In some ways, it is worse that they are against animals as they are defenceless.”

THE BACKGROUND: In April and May 2018, Animal Equality filmed workers on Fir Tree pig farm in Lincolnshire in the UK kicking pigs in the face, jabbing them with pitchforks and slamming gates on their heads. Our undercover investigators visited the farm after an anonymous tip-off and uncovered repeated, deliberate violence by several workers. Thanks to our investigation, these workers were then convicted of animal abuse on January 31, 2019.

WHAT WE’RE SAYING: Speaking outside the courthouse, Dr. Toni Shephard, Animal Equality’s UK Executive Director, reacted with palpable disappointment to the lenient sentences. “These were animals who were incredibly vulnerable, and these were the men who were supposed to be caring for them,” she explained. “The pigs squealed every time they were kicked in the face, were clearly terrified and tried to escape from the men using pitchforks on them.”

ADDITIONAL COVERAGE: Major UK news outlets are covering the sentencing, including the BBC, The Daily Mirror and ITV.

OUR WORK’S IMPACT: As a result of Animal Equality’s UK investigations, six farm workers have now been convicted of cruelty to animals. In May 2017, a dairy farm worker in Somerset received a 12-week suspended prison sentence after our investigators filmed him violently abusing newborn calves on a family-run farm which supplied Muller Milk, one of the main processors used by Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Co-op for their own brand of milk. In 2012, two workers were filmed beating piglets to death with a metal bar on Harling Farm in Norfolk; both men pleaded guilty to cruelty charges and one was jailed for 18 weeks.

WHAT NOW?: The case highlights the lack of independent, unannounced farm inspections in the UK, the absence of which leaves farmed animals vulnerable to abuse. Without the bravery of the whistleblower and our investigators, these workers would still be beating pigs at Fir Tree Farm today. Please consider supporting our investigative work with a contribution today and help us bring more animal abusers to justice.