10 October 2000
Farmer bailed over ‘halal’ slaughter

By FWi staff

A FARMER who ran an illegal abattoir and cruelly slaughtered sheep is to appeal against a 12 weeks jail sentence and lifelong ban from owning sheep.

Mark Gathercole, 36, was sentenced on Monday (9 October) after pleading guilty to 20 charges of animal cruelty and running an illegal slaughterhouse.

Thetford Magistrates heard that the Norfolk farmer slit animals throats without prior stunning and claimed the meat was ritually prepared Muslim “halal”.

Mr Gathercole, of Flybarn Farm, Stow Bedon, near Watton, admitted causing unnecessary suffering and transporting animals in a manner likely to cause suffering.

He also admitted slaughtering without appropriate knowledge and skill, acting as an unlicensed slaughterman and failing to dispose of animal by-products.

RSPCA inspectors and Norfolk police uncovered the illegal abattoir during a raid in April following a tip-off from Hillside Animal Sanctuary investigators.

Uniformed and plain-clothed officers found Mr Gathercole slaughtering sheep without prior stunning in full view of other animals.

The court was told how more than 150 sheep were found at the premises and several had to be destroyed immediately to prevent further suffering.

RSPCA Chief Inspector Mark Thompson said that the association would always bring a prosecution where it found evidence of this kind of cruelty.

“Slaughter regulations are there to protect animals as well as people. It is important that cruelty, whether it is prompted by ignorance or profit, is brought to justice.”

Mr Gathercole has lodged an appeal to be held at a later date. His solicitor claims he was driven to his actions by ignorance and the crisis in the farming.

But the RSPCA maintains that Mr Gathercole used the slaughterhouse as a means of making profit while fully understanding that his actions were illegal.

The religious slaughter or the slaughter of animals without prior stunning outside slaughterhouses became illegal in the UK last year.

Halal meat, permitted only under strict rules, does not allow pre-stunning, but requires the rapid severance of the jugular veins and arteries with a sharp knife.