Dairy farmer cleared of TB test tampering

A dairy farmer from Wales has cleared his name after he was accused by animal health officials of tampering with his TB tests in order to falsify results.

Hefin Owen from North Carmarthenshire has been cleared of charges relating to animal welfare breaches and administering noxious material to his own cattle.

His battle has been going on for more than two years, after Animal and Plant Health Authority (APHA) officials accused him of tampering following a TB test that found 74 reactors and 21 inconclusives.

See also: Expert advice: What happens if my herd fails a TB test?

Mr Owen, who farms with his partner Lucy, was forced to go through the ordeal of watching 30 of his cattle being shot in the farmyard.

He was then asked to keep the remaining 44 reactors on farm in isolation, rather than take them to slaughter.

Police raid

The farm was later raided by police and animal health officials, who arrested Mr Owen alleging that he had injected the animals in their neck with a substance in order to encourage a positive TB test result.

As a consequence of the accusation, the compensation payment for the animals slaughtered as reactors was stopped and his dairy farm faced financial ruin.

But after a five-day hearing at Aberystwyth Magistrates Court in the week ending 23 March, District Judge Parsons found Mr Owen not guilty of all offences.

Harrison Clark Rickerbys, the law firm representing Mr Owen, said the defence team had been able to demonstrate the complete failure of the prosecution to prove their case and fundamental flaws in their evidence.

“It has been pretty awful for the past three years and it has been a real struggle to keep going,” Mr Owen told Farmers Weekly.

“We have nearly lost the farm and have been lucky to have such a good landlord.”

Mr Owen said at the time of his arrest, APHA had already conducted tests on the 30 animals that had been culled, but had found no sign of any substance.

Money owed

Despite having his name cleared in court he is still to be paid for any of his animals.

He intends to pursue the authorities for the money owed and compensation for damages.

See also: Six-hour TB test shows promising early results

Aled Owen of Harrison Clark Rickerbys said that he was pleased for the family, adding: “This case highlights the need for early technical advice from someone who has experience of the industry.

“These are complex matters and if not prepared correctly, with identification of the right experts and appropriate strategy, then they can go wrong.

“It is also important not blindly to accept scientific evidence, but to challenge and evaluate what it purports to show and what it really demonstrates.”

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “We are aware of last week’s court ruling and are considering its outcome.”