'Death and squalor' filmed at foot and mouth farm

May 9, 2002 The Guardian (London) by Martin Wainwright
Takeaway cutlery and plastic wrapping were found in a piggery's trays of swill which had supposedly been heated almost to boiling point for two hours, a court heard yesterday.

Graphic footage of the debris, piped to pens from a central processor at the farm where foot and mouth was first found last year, was shown to the trial at Bedlington magistrates court in Northumberland.

A Chinese porcelain soup spoon and parts of a sheep's vertebrae were also discovered in troughs supervised by Bobby Waugh, 56, who denies 16 counts of animal cruelty, breaching health regulations and failing to dispose of animal remains. The courtroom watched in silence as the 40 minute film, recorded by Northumberland county council's trading standards department, showed listless and sick pigs huddled together - in some cases on top of one another - at Burnside farm, Heddon-on-the-Wall, near Newcastle upon Tyne.

Cameraman Bob Hedley occasionally commented on the scenes, and was asked at one point what a bundle was, lying in one of the shed's walkways. "A dead pig," he replied. Other apparently lifeless animals occasionally twitched.

The video tour of the four sheds at the farm - a small, densely occupied pig-fattening unit - also showed a trading standards officer in protective clothing hauling debris out of rubbish bins.

His finds included scores of empty plastic sandwich wrappers, one still wrapped around corned beef.

Sam Mansley, a vet sent to the farm on February 24 last year, after foot and mouth was confirmed at an Essex abattoir supplied by Waugh, said that some of the pigs were "very sick" and one had to be shot immediately.

He told the district judge, James Prowse, that Waugh had blamed foot and mouth lesions on another vet from the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, James Dring, who had given the alarm about the unit on February 20.

Mr Mansley, a vet for 30 years, said: "I asked (Waugh) how long the pigs had been sick and he said they had not been sick. I said words to the effect 'surely you must have seen some sick pigs on your farm?'

"He said they were all right until 'that bastard Jimmy Dring went in there last Thursday - he must have carried it with him'."

Mr Dring is due to give evidence later in the case.

Mr Mansley said he knew of about 30 farms across the country like that run by Waugh and his brother Ronald - who was also charged but whose case was adjourned indefinitely due to ill health - which fed their animals on swill.

Cross-examined by Jeremy Stuart-Smith QC, defending, Mr Mansley acknowledged that foot and mouth symptoms were difficult for animal owners to spot, especially at the beginning of an outbreak.

Challenged by the lawyer that Waugh's pigs were in a "reasonable bodily condition", he said that some were but others were not.

The case continues.

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