News

Man charged after more than 1,000 pigs found dead

Vincent Ball

By Vincent Ball, Brantford Expositor

BRANTFORD  - 

One of the worst cases of animal cruelty in Southwestern Ontario that began with the discovery of more than 1,200 dead pigs in a manure-filled barn in Norfolk County lands in court Thursday.

A man who now lives in Tavistock will appear in Norfolk County provincial offences court to face eight charges of animal cruelty.

“Certainly, in terms of the number of animals involved, this is staggering,” Bonnie Bishop, the Ontario SPCA’s senior inspector for farm animal welfare, said Wednesday.

“I have not been part of any other investigation that has involved this many animals in my career,” said Bishop, who has been investigating animal cruelty cases for about 15 years.

A 27-year-old man, who has not been identified by the Ontario SPCA, was charged after 1,265 pigs were discovered dead Feb. 17 in a darkened and flooded manure-filled barn with no access to food.

SPCA officers, two veterinarians and a representative of Ontario Pork moved surviving animals to a dry area of the barn where they could be inspected. An additional 250 pigs were euthanized on site, the Ontario SPCA said in a statement.

Bishop said there’s no excuse for not providing proper care to animals.

“Failure to do so can have serious legal consequences.”

The man is charged with eight counts of animal cruelty, including six counts of failing to comply with prescribed standards of care and one count each of causing distress to an animal and permitting an animal to be in distress.

If found guilty, he faces fines of up to $60,000, two years in jail and a lifetime ban on owning animals.

By policy, the Ontario SPCA doesn’t name people who have been charged, nor will they identify the location of the farm.

Bishop wouldn’t say if the man owned and operated the farm or simply worked there.

But he did have care and control of the animals, Bishop said.

She added that she understands the accused is not currently operating a farm.

The case is “shocking,” Eric Schwindt, chair of Ontario Pork, said Wednesday from the annual Ontario Pork Congress in Stratford.

But he said that it does not reflect how pork producers operate.

“Our farmers take good care of their livestock,” said Schwindt, adding that producers are expected to follow an industry code of conduct.

Ontario Pork represents more than 1,520 farmers who market almost five million hogs. The organization is involved in research, consumer education and food quality, among other issues.

Lawyer Anna Pippus, director of farmed animal advocacy for Animal Justice Canada, said the Langton case is an example of what happens when animals are used as commodities.

“This case demonstrates exactly what happens when we use smart sentient animals for their instrumental value to us,” Pippus said in a statement Wednesday.

“Today’s farms are warehouses operated by business people producing meat, dairy and eggs as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

“The government doesn’t regulate the treatment of animals on farms,” she said. “This horrific case only came to light because a member of the public managed to see the suffering animals and was willing to come forward as a witness.

“Who knows how many more animals are suffering near-death in torturous conditions, concealed in windowless warehouses on private property?” she said. “It’s a no-brainer that all commercial enterprises should be regulated by the government and regularly inspected.”

A spokesperson for Ontario Pork said the group alerted the Ontario SPCA as soon as it became aware of the Langton case.

“OSPCA would not have been aware of it otherwise,” the spokesperson said. “Both organizations are equally committed to high standards of animal care and welfare.”

Pippus also takes issue with the charges laid in the case.

The accused should have been charged with criminal animal cruelty rather than the less serious provincial regulatory offences he faces, she argued.

Bob Vogelzang, president of the Norfolk Federation of Agriculture, hadn’t heard of the charges before being contacted by Postmedia.

When told of the details, Vogelzang, a former pork producer, said he felt “sickened.

“I’ve never heard of anything like this happening and I can’t imagine any farmer allowing something like this to happen.”

He said the pigs represent a major investment for a farmer.

“When I was raising hogs, I’d be thinking about their welfare morning, noon and night,” Vogelzang said. “That’s all I could think about.”

Ontario Pork could not put a dollar value on the deceased pigs.

Brantford Expositor