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Durrus farmer faces 34 charges in relation to animal cruelty

Wednesday, 8th November, 2017 10:05pm

Story by Jackie Keogh
Durrus farmer faces 34 charges in relation to animal cruelty

The emaciated carcass of a dead cow being removed from the farm.

Durrus farmer faces 34 charges in relation to animal cruelty

The emaciated carcass of a dead cow being removed from the farm.

VETERINARY inspectors found cattle that had been left to rot on lands in Durrus.

Three farms owned by James Dukelow of Coomkeen, Durrus, were inspected on May 16th, 2016 by Dr Denis Hennigan, who is a veterinary inspector for the District Veterinary Office at Clogheen in Clonakilty.

Paula McCarthy, BL, for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said a total of 34 charges had been brought against the accused in respect of five inspections from May 16th to May 27th last year.

However, she said it was likely that the accused would plead to a sample of these charges when the case is finalised on January 25th next.

Dr Hennigan told the court that the farm was divided into three main areas at Coomkeen East and Coomkeen West, as well Carrigboy, and that during the course of his search he found eight carcasses in one slatted shed, some of which had been dead for anything between two weeks and three months.

Although they were out of sight, the inspector said the carcasses were accessible to wildlife and dogs. 

The veterinary inspector said the main problem on James Dukelow’s land was that some of his cattle did not have access to a ready supply of water. 

The inspector said water is their most urgent requirement: ‘They can only survive a few days without water – they have a constant need for it.’

Dr Hennigan said there was one pen in the middle portion of the slatted house that had 14 cattle in it and there was no water available to them, except what was brought by the bucketful.

Meanwhile, some of the cattle at the western end of the shed – which was at the end of a slope – were standing in slurry that had seeped up through the slats and they had no ‘dry lie’ available to them.

He said James Dukelow gave an undertaking to continue drawing water to the animals, to remove the slurry and to have the carcasses properly removed through a licenced knackery.

The inspector said James Dukelow told him he had been unwell – that he’d had about three or four bad bouts of ’flu – and that his brother, who would normally help him, had suffered a stroke.

Despite the undertakings given by the accused, matters were pretty much the same as they were before when the inspector returned on May 19th, 2016.

The inspector said he visited Carrigboy first, because he hadn’t inspected it on the previous occasion, and found animals in a pen without access to water and with a lot of slurry underfoot.

He said there was an empty water trough in the farmyard and that, when his colleagues filled it, the thirsty animals fought for the water.

That day, he said there was a smell of decomposed flesh and they found another carcass adjacent to the yard.

At Coomkeen West, he said he found ‘no change.’ The dead animals were in the same location three days later and the animals were still standing in slurry.

He said the accused told him he hadn’t carried out the work because he was struggling to get help from others.

Dr Hennigan said James Dukelow had scraped some of the slurry from the top, but it was pointless because the tank beneath was full.

The vet said he wanted to let the cattle out but James Dukelow pleaded with him not to because he had some breeding bulls and there were cattle outside and very little grass.The inspector agreed to give him more time to address the problems because the farmer gave him an assurance that he would relocate the livestock to a better location. But when he returned on May 24th, 2016, there was no real improvement.

On the fourth occasion, May 26th, 2016, Dr Hennigan said the carcass at Carrigboy was still in the same place, but the slurry at Coomkeen West had been significantly reduced so the animals had a dry lie. Larger troughs had also been put in place but he was still drawing buckets of water to the trough.

At Coomkeen East, the inspector decided to allow four cattle out, because they at least would have access to water from a river at the bottom of the field.

The farmer gave an undertaking to have the cattle relocated by 4pm the following day and, when the inspector turned up at 4.30pm on May 27th, he could see that the relocation operation in process.

The following Monday, May 30th, two authorised officers returned to the farms and they confirmed that the live animals had been moved and that the carcasses were properly disposed of.

In defence of his client, Ray Hennessy, solicitor, said: ‘James Dukelow was dealing with a compendium of problems: cattle prices at the time were very poor, feedstuff was very expensive, his brother had suffered a stroke and he had little or no help.’

Mr Hennessy said James Dukelow was ‘like an animal dazzled by headlights – he didn’t know which way to turn.’Judge Olan Kelleher asked if the accused was aware of the severity of the penalties and Mr Hennessy assured him that his client knew he could be facing €5,000 fines, or six months in prison.

Judge Kelleher said he would not finalise the case on that day. He adjourned the case to the January 25th, 2018 sitting of Bantry District Court to allow time for the production of a Probation Report.

Judge Kelleher said he accepted the bona fides of Robert Dukelow and Ben Dukelow – the brothers of the accused – who had tried to help James but were also of the opinion that his farm is over-stocked.

The judge noted that the accused has no previous convictions and he accepted Mr Hennessy’s assertion that their father had ‘acquired a lot of land through hard work and good farming.’

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