Three men have received suspended prison sentences for offences relating to the illegal slaughter of sheep at a farm.
Sean Burns, John Clayton and Kenneth Darren Evans were found by officers of Pembrokeshire County Council in Wales, preparing sheep carcasses, which had been slaughtered into smokies.
Smokies are an illegal product created by singeing the fleece off the carcass of a sheep, to leave the surface of the meat with a smoky color and leaving the carcass with a strong smoky smell, due to the burning process. They are mostly sold in ethnic communities, which view them as a delicacy. Smokies cannot be produced legally, because the skin is left on the carcass of the animal. This is not allowed for sheep meat in Europe.
The men were sentenced at Swansea Crown Court earlier this week for offences at Bramble Hall Farm, Ferry Lane Pembroke Dock, on Jan. 21, 2019. Burns and Clayton were found guilty following a week-long trial in February this year.
Burns pleaded not guilty to operating a food establishment without the required approval; running a slaughterhouse that failed to meet legal requirements relating to hygiene; failing to ensure food premises were clean and maintained in good repair; possessing unsafe food for the purpose of sale; and failing to collect animal by-products in line with legal requirements.
He was found guilty on all five counts. For each charge, Burns was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for two years, to run concurrently.
Clayton pleaded guilty to two charges of possessing unsafe food for the purpose of sale and failing to collect animal by-products in accordance with legal requirements. He denied three charges of operating a food site without the required approval, operating a slaughterhouse that failed to meet specific legal requirements relating to hygiene and failing to ensure food premises were clean and maintained in good repair but was found guilty on all counts.
To the charges he had denied, Clayton was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years. For those to which he pleaded guilty, he received nine months imprisonment, suspended for two years, to run concurrently.
Evans admitted two charges of possessing unsafe food for the purpose of sale and failing to collect animal by products in accordance with legal requirements. He was sentenced to 16 weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years.
Investigation in 2019
Current Court of Appeal guidance recommends suspended sentences should be considered because of the risk of COVID-19 in prisons. No prosecution costs were awarded to the council.
Speaking after the sentencing, Cris Tomos from Pembrokeshire County Council, said the authority was pleased with the verdicts.
“While it was disappointing that costs had not been awarded in this protracted and lengthy investigation, it was important that these illegal activities are highlighted to illustrate the fact that such offenders have absolute disregard for the health of any potential purchasers, for any of the rules relating to the safety of food or the wellbeing of the animals which they slaughter.”
An investigation at the farm in January 2019 involved Pembrokeshire County Council and Dyfed Powys Police’s Rural Crime Team.
Officers discovered an illegal slaughter operation in an agricultural outbuilding, with Clayton and Evans caught in the act. The unit had been set up as a slaughter hall with six slaughtered sheep at various stages of preparation and other penned sheep.
The court was told that conditions in the slaughter hall were unsanitary and the floor was stained with blood from the killed animals as well as by-products from the slaughter process. A herd of pigs were seen wandering among suspended sheep carcasses, feeding on the remains of slaughtered animals. A further six carcasses of smoked sheep were found bagged in the boot of Evan’s car, ready for onward supply.
Speaking in February 2020, Tomos said: “The individuals involved had clearly sought to profit from these unlawful activities in which they displayed a complete lack of regard for the welfare of animals and for the safety of consumers who might ultimately have purchased the illicit smokies. The consumers would have had no comprehension of the conditions in which the animals had been held, slaughtered and processed, or of the potential health risks.”
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