London

Farmer charged after more than 1,200 pigs found dead in 'flooded, manure-filled barn'

A 27-year-old southwestern Ontario man is facing eight animal cruelty charges after pigs were found in a flooded, manure-filled barn earlier this year.

'It's something I've never come across in my 20 years,' says chair of industry group

A farmer is facing charges after more than 1,000 pigs were found dead in deplorable conditions on a farm in Langton, Ont., earlier this year. (Laszlo Balogh/Reuters)

A 27-year-old man faces eight animal cruelty charges after more than 1,200 pigs were found dead on his farm in Langton, Ont., earlier this year. The Ontario SPCA laid the charges after receiving a complaint from a member of the public about conditions on the farm located 80 kilometres southeast of London.

Investigators went to the property on Feb. 17. They reported finding 1,265 dead pigs in a "flooded, manure-filled barn in total darkness" adding that the animals "had no access to food." Another 250 pigs had to be euthanized. 

The industry association Ontario Pork was called in to help the surviving pigs in the barn, according to board chair Eric Schwindt. He said he's shocked by what happened.

"It's something I've never come across in my 20 years in the pork industry," he told CBC London. "This isn't the way farmers treat their livestock."

Calls for better animal protection

Anna Pippus, a lawyer with the advocacy group Animal Justice, said there's no way to know how farmers are treating pigs and chickens because the animals are raised indoors.

"Farm animals are so invisible," she said. "It's very concerning to think that this could be happening to many, many more animals and we simply don't know about it."

She called for more stringent government regulations, including regular inspections of farm animals.

"These commercial industries really need to be regulated by ... independent regulations and they need to be regularly enforced in an effective way."

Schwindt disagrees.

"More regulation or different regulations wouldn't solve the problems in this particular case," he said. "The current rules weren't followed in this case and for that, we have to find a solution."

The accused now lives in Tavistock. He is due in court Thursday and is charged with one count of causing distress to an animal, one count of permitting an animal to be in distress and six counts of failing to comply with prescribed standards of care.