Convictions for animal neglect and cruelty in farming rose by 122.7% in 2012, a new RSPCA report reveals.

The RSPCA prosecutions annual report shows the number of convictions relating to farm animals last year in England and Wales rose to 49, compared to 22 in 2011 and 15 in 2010.

Launched during RSPCA Week, the report includes the shocking pig cruelty case of two farmers who were secretly filmed beating pigs on a Norfolk farm.

Geoffey Towell, 54, and James Dove, 27, pleaded guilty to cruelty to pigs following an undercover investigation at a farm in East Harling, near Norwich.

The report said: “Norwich Magistrates heard how a stockman (Mr Towell) was filmed for several minutes on separate occasions hitting numerous sows 67 times with a plastic pipe during a ‘sustained and violent assault’.

“He was seen killing three pigs by hitting them on the head with a metal bar or gatepost.

“A fellow worker (Mr Dove) admitted kicking and punching sows with a plastic pipe and throwing them over a barrier.”

Mr Towell, from East Harling, was disqualified from keeping farm animals for 10 years and imprisoned for 18 months.

Mr Dove, from Wymondham, was disqualified from keeping farm animals for five years, sentenced to eight weeks’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months, ordered to complete 120 hours of unpaid work and pay £300 costs.

A judge described it as the worst case of animal cruelty he had ever seen.

In a separate pig cruelty case in Hertfordshire detailed in the report, RSPCA inspectors and police found 13 pigs suffering on a farm, four of which had to be euthanised at the scene on veterinary advice.

The 60-year-old farmer was convicted of animal cruelty offences under the Animal Welfare Act and sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months, 150 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £1,500 costs.

The report said: “Their keeper had no planned feeding regime for the pigs and they were fed randomly, with feed simply thrown at their bedded area.

“There was no clean water available and when this was offered the pigs drank profusely.”

In another case, a 66-year-old man from Abertillery who was seen striking a one-day-old lamb with a walking stick on farmland in Gwent, South Wales.

“There had previously been a number of young animals with injuries not consistent with natural causes or being attacked by wild animals,” said the report.

The man, now retired, was given a six-month jail sentence suspended for 12 months at Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court. He was also excluded from entering the farmland and ordered to pay £500 costs.

Meanwhile, animals rescued or collected by the RSPCA increased from 119,126 to 130,695 last year – a 9.7% rise – plus the rescue of 64,000 farmed chickens from one flooded barn.

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said staff, volunteers and branches working for the animal charity were struggling to keep up with the growing animal cruelty crisis.

He added: “For us, prosecution is always the last resort However, if there is evidence of a crime and serious animal abuse then we will take legal action to protect the animals and prevent further abuse. We also want to see judges taking these offences far more seriously.”

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