Animal cruelty uncovered at smallholding in Cornwall sees father and son jailed

 One of the sheep at the Reads' smallholding. Cornwall Council
One of the sheep at the Reads' smallholding Credit: Cornwall Council

A father and son who moved from London to Cornwall to set up a smallholding have been jailed for a string of animal cruelty offences.

John Read, aged 71, and Sam Read, 36, have also been banned from keeping animals.

The Reads, from Praze an Beeble near Camborne, set up the smallholding 20 years ago.

But when Cornwall Council’s Animal Health Team visited the farm in December 2020, they found animals kept in unacceptable conditions.

Several of the animals were emaciated and one lamb could hardly walk.

At a follow-up visit the following month, inspectors found cattle with no food or bedding. Cows kept inside were caked in dung and sheep were covered in mud and shivering from the cold.

The duo admitted failing to provide geese and ducks with clean litter and adequate light and ventilation. Credit: Cornwall Council

When a complaint was received in May 2021, inspectors found goats had overgrown hooves and access to dirty water and cattle were being fed poor-quality hay.

At a hearing on August 4 this year before District Judge Matson, the Reads pleaded guilty to the following charges:

  • Failing to provide cattle with a clean well-drained lying area

  • Failing to protect cattle from dangerous objects

  • Failing to provide geese and ducks with clean litter and adequate light and ventilation

  • Failing to provide a lame lamb with prompt effective treatment

  • Failing to provide six yearling bullocks and heifers with clean well-drained lying areas

They received a 19-week custodial sentence and were disqualified from keeping farm animals for 10 years.

Both defendants appealed to Truro Crown Court and during mitigation, the court was told that considerable improvements have now been made to the farm and no animals had been treated deliberately cruelly.

Kevin Hill, prosecuting for the council, told the court many of the sheep were emaciated and had no quality supplementary feed.

The cattle were in poor body condition, kept on high ground and moorland, and had no shelter and no quality hay to eat. The cattle also had access to scrap and collapsed fencing. 

The poultry were shut in a shed with no ventilation.

The court also heard the defendants had been sentenced for similar offences in 2019 and 2020 and so were in contravention of a suspended sentence.

Judge Simon Carr said the cruelty had been deliberate and in a commercial context and as such the 19 weeks custody sentence was appropriate and not appealable.

The court also imposed a disqualification order in respect of farmed animals for a period of 10 years. The order was suspended for a period of 28 days to allow the farmed animals to be disposed of.

Head of Trading Standards for Cornwall Council Jane Tomlinson said: “This case involved incompetent smallholders.

"The animals were not pets and were sold for commercial gain. Over the years the council and Defra have provided the Reads with considerable advice, but it was ignored.”

The council's portfolio holder for public protection and enforcement services Martyn Alvey described the case as "shocking".

"Where officers find non-compliance and a complete disregard for farm animal welfare, the Council will take formal action to protect animals and the reputation of the Cornish farming industry," he added