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

Robert Emerson, 73, of Broughton Astley, Leicestershire, pleaded guilty to two charges under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 when he appeared at Leicester Magistrates Court.

The court heard that the offences took place at Far Hill Farm, Dunton Road, Leire, in December, 2021. It was told that on December 11, 2021, an off-duty police officer driving past the premises on his way to work saw a large group of men at the site.

The officer suspected an illegal cannabis factory in the process of being harvested and reported it to 101. A few minutes later, a police dog unit arrived at the premises, where 30-40 men were congregated at the site to buy pigs from Mr Emerson to be eaten at Christmas.

The pigs were being sold live for £170 each before being killed, illegally, on the premises. Four recently-killed pigs were found lying on the farmyard and another pig had been loaded into the back of a car.

Approximately 130 live pigs were found by Trading Standards' animal welfare officers at the site in conditions which were unfit for their needs. Trading Standards seized the animals and immediately removed them to a place of safety, before applying to the Magistrates Court for the animals to be formally given over to them for disposal.

In mitigation, Stephen Cadwaladr, for the defence told the court that Mr Emerson had a long association with the farming community and had been a successful and reputable pig breeder. He said that two months before the offences occurred, a vet had visited the farm and found the pigs were being appropriately kept and cared for.

READ NEXT: Somerset woman's lifetime ban from keeping cattle and huge court bill

He added that Mr 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 concerning Mr Emerson’s declining health, telling the court that he has prostate cancer and has been put on antidepressants.

Passing 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.”

Mr Emerson’s sentence was suspended for 12 months. He was also fined £1500 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £128. The order banning him from keeping or caring for farmed animals was imposed for 10 years, with three years before he can apply to have it revoked.