A farmer has been jailed for animal cruelty and neglect in a case described by the RSPCA as the worst it had ever seen.

Warning: This article contains graphic images.

James Linsley from Boldron, Barnard Castle, County, Durham, was sentenced to 16 weeks’ imprisonment after more than 350 animals were found dead and dying at Woodside Farm in West Layton, near Scotch Corner, North Yorkshire.

Mr Linsley, 29, who was renting the farm, admitted unnecessary suffering to 53 sheep, four cows, 10 horses and a dog and two charges of neglect involving 300 sheep, 17 horses, four cows and a dog.

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Describing the farm as a “scene of horror of huge proportions”, RSPCA inspectors told Northallerton Magistrates’ Court they discovered animals knee-deep in faeces, with a collie dog living off the carcass of a dead horse.

“There were dead and dying animals all over the place, and some of the suffering had been going on for months,” said RSPCA chief inspector Mark Gent.

“It is the worst case I have ever been involved with due to the sheer number of animals.

“The RSPCA had officers there for a week and it was a traumatic experience for all involved.”

“It is the worst case I have ever been involved with due to the sheer number of animals.”
RSPCA chief inspector Mark Gent

Mr Linsley had been due to stand trial but pleaded guilty to three offences of causing unnecessary suffering and failing to provide a suitable environment and feed for the animals.

As well as being sentenced, he was disqualified from keeping cows and horses for 10 years.

In mitigation, the court heard that Mr Linsley had found it difficult to get food to the animals because of the poor weather.

He told the court he had now moved to a smaller farm where he was successfully farming sheep.

But in sentencing, Judge Adrian Lower said the weather was no excuse.

“The scenes officers were met with were truly shocking,” Judge Lower said.

“The weather was poor but it didn’t mean it was impossible for you to attend to the needs of the animals, other farmers were dealing with them.

“All of this came about because of your stubbornness and pride, you must have been aware the situation had become too difficult for you. It was a truly atrocious situation.”

Dead sheep (c) RSPCA