A farmer from Ozleworth, Wotton-under-Edge, has been given a suspended prison sentence for burying sheep carcasses in a heap of rotting potatoes.
At a hearing on 18 November, Stephen Redman, aged 65, of Newark Park Farm, pleaded guilty to 22 offences brought by Gloucestershire County Council’s trading standards service, relating to failing to apply ear tags to sheep, not reporting animal movements and deaths, failing to properly dispose of animal carcasses and falsifying the birth records of 12 cattle.
Cheltenham magistrates sentenced him to 26 weeks in prison, suspended for two years, at a hearing on 15 December and made it clear that if he committed further offences within this time that he could be sent to prison. He was also ordered to pay the full costs of bringing the case of £6,034 and a victim surcharge of £85.
The court heard that Redman had been advised by animal health inspectors from trading standards on a number of occasions over many years and had received a caution in 2016 for failing to tag his sheep and dispose of sheep carcasses.
On 3 June 2020, trading standards received a call from a member of the public who had found a partially burnt sheep carcass in an oil drum in a field. An officer visited the field and found the carcass, which was identified by its ear tag as belonging to Redman.
During the inspection the carcasses of a number of other sheep in varying stages of decomposition were found scattered in a nearby field farmed by Redman.
On 9 June 2020 trading standards received a second complaint from a member of the public who had noticed a terrible stench as they walked along the road, which they identified as sheep carcasses buried in a heap of rotting potatoes. An officer attended and found the carcasses of at least six sheep buried in a huge pile of potatoes.
It was apparent that they had been deliberately buried in the potatoes and had been dead for a considerable period of time. Ear tags found in two of the carcasses were identified as Redman’s sheep.
While on the farm, officers also noticed several sheep without ear tags despite this being a legal requirement.
Examination of Redman’s records revealed a suspiciously high amount of twin births in his cattle, so DNA testing was carried out to confirm whether or not they were the offspring of their registered dams.
The results confirmed that the records were incorrect, compromising ‘farm to fork’ traceability of the food we eat. The cattle passports were withdrawn to prevent them from entering the human food chain.
Redman also failed to record the deaths and disposal routes for a number of cattle that had died on his holding and when questioned about all of these matters, he had no credible explanation.
Magistrates felt that the mitigation put forward to suggest that he had not tried to hide anything, including the carcasses, made the offences more serious as the carcasses were on show for members of the public to see.
Cllr Dave Norman, cabinet member responsible for trading standards, said: “It is vitally important that the carcasses of animals which die on farm are disposed of appropriately to prevent the spread of disease. The integrity and traceability of beef from ‘farm to fork’ is something that the public rely on. We will not tolerate farmers who undermine confidence in the system.”