Farmer gets ban as worst neglect ever sees poor chickens resort to cannibalism
A poultry farmer has been banned from keeping animals after leaving chickens in such squalid conditions they resorted to eating the weaker birds in the "worst ever case of neglect."
Scott Paul Buckland, 39, admitted causing unnecessary suffering to 91 hens, as well as two sheep and two rabbits but walked free from court after a judge said his personal issues impacted heavily on his ability to care for the animals.
Animal rescuers who went to save the birds on the Cheshire site were so shocked at the conditions they described it as the "worst" case of neglect they had ever seen.
The birds had no food or fresh bedding and dead chickens were left rotting while others were so starving they were eating the weaker ones.
The court heard RSCPA inspectors swooped on the farm after receiving an anonymous tip-off in January.
They found two sheep fenced in and chewing on bark and a water trough completely frozen over.
Inside the sheds, inspectors discovered 91 hens had no food or fresh bedding, and some found in various stages of decomposition.
Shocking pictures taken at the scene show some hens roosting on top of dead poultry in cramped and filthy conditions.
Buckland, who ran the poultry farm in Northwich, Cheshire, admitted seven animal welfare offences at Chester Magistrates' Court on Monday.
He was handed an 18-month suspended sentence, ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work and banned from keeping all animals for a decade.
He was also ordered to pay costs of £311 and a £128 surcharge.
District Judge Nicholas Sanders said: "There is no doubt that this was a very serious example of animal neglect.
"It clearly did not happen overnight and resulted in the death of a number of poultry. The conclusion of an experienced veterinary officer says it's one of the worst cases involving poultry she had ever witnessed.
"I can see that because of the background to this matter – there were a number of personal issues impacting very seriously on your level of function, it would be appropriate to suspend the sentence."
At the time Cheshire had regulations in place due to a strain of Avian Flu – a viral infection that spreads among birds – but Buckland allowed poultry to mix with wild birds.
A vet from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), told the court it was "one of the worst, if not the worst case" she had ever witnessed.
In her opinion, some of the animals had not been fed for days, if not weeks, and some of the poultry had either starved to death or died because of the cold.
The stronger birds had even begun pecking at the weaker birds, and had started to eat them.
Vets recovered 43 dead hens which the court heard Buckland used to bait foxes so he and his friends could shoot them.
When vets returned to recover evidence bags they found Buckland attempting to burn the dead chickens on a fire.
Tony Birchall, defending, said Buckland had struggled to feed the chickens due to Covid restrictions.
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