Five animals, including a calf, died and were scavenged on a Mullingar farm when their 25-year-old owner’s financial pressures became too much for him.
Marc Finnegan of Readypenny, Dundalk, County Louth, was given a six month suspended sentence for leaving a carcass unburied on rented land at Joristown, Mullingar last year.
Animal cruelty charges were taken into consideration at Mullingar District Court, with Judge Eamon O’Brien describing photographs of the scene as horrific and appalling.
The court heard Finnegan, who had been farming for six years with his father, had borrowed heavily at the height of the boom to develop his herd and an agricultural contracting business.
When clients didn’t pay him, he spiralled into “dire financial circumstances”, solicitor Chynel Phelan explained, and this led him to stop making rational decisions.
Garda Enda Brown described a large number of underfed, malnourished animals when he visited the 180 acre farm on January 18 last.
A heifer and cow had to be put down by Department of Agriculture veterinary inspector Jonathan Cooney, including a limousin cow which had been left in a ditch for a number of days with no food or water.
Carcasses, some of which were extensively scavenged, had been left for days with one partially under plastic and one submerged in a small stream.
A limousine calf left unburied for more than a week had been scavenged to the point where there was nothing left to remove, the inspector said.
He became aware of the farm when its owners complained that Finnegan had overstayed his lease there.
At the time Finnegan had up to 106 animals there, which in good condition would have been worth up to €90,000, the inspector said.
He had reduced his total herd from 300 to less than 50 and the inspector said it was the department’s objective that Finnegan end his involvement in farming.
Ms Phelan said her client’s local vet described him as an honest and genuine farmer who overstretched himself by putting so much effort into building up his herd.
Finnegan suffers with anxiety, she said and knowledge of what he had done did not sit easily with him.
It happened at a time when weather was particularly bad and roads between the farm and his home almost 80 miles away were often impassable.
He is utterly embarrassed and ashamed and very remorseful, she said and pointed out that Finnegan faces further summonses relating to the death of some of the animals which were later removed from the farm.
Judge O’Brien expressed his surprise that Finnegan had no herdsman locally to mind the animals for him and suspended the six month sentence for two years.