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Friday, 22 August 2014

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Big legal bill for ex-NFU Cumbria chairman who neglected sick cow

A prominent farmer who caused a cow with a serious eye infection to suffer needlessly has been left with a hefty bill.

Russell Bowman photo
Russell Bowman

Former NFU Cumbria chairman Russell Bowman must pay court costs of more than £5,500 after he sold the sick animal for slaughter for £450.

Bowman, of Castlerigg Farm, Armathwaite, near Carlisle, had a vet treat the cow after it developed the infection in January 2013, Carlisle Magistrates’ Court heard.

But the 12-year-old cow, which had reached the end of its working life, failed to respond to a course of antibiotics and painkillers.

Its condition didn’t improve and about three months later Bowman gave it another round of the same medication, but did not call out a vet, the court heard.

About six weeks later he made a “commercial” decision to send the cow to an abattoir 180 miles away in Derbyshire to be slaughtered for meat.

Prosecutor Nicholas Cole said there were closer abattoirs but Bowman chose this particular one because it offered the best price.

Bowman then arranged for the cow to be transported to a market in Penrith before it was transferred to a lorry-load of other cattle and on to the abattoir.

When the animal arrived, staff at the abattoir noticed its left eye was missing and there was foul-smelling puss around the eye socket.

The abattoir vet took the view that it must have been an old injury and that the animal had been suffering, Mr Cole said.

The cow was slaughtered and a post mortem found that a hole which was 16cm deep had formed in its socket where the eye should have been.

The report also found “severe prolonged and unnecessary suffering” and that the animal was not in a fit state to be transported.

It also stated that “any competent stockman should have recognised the problem and sought advice”, and that the cow would have suffered “extreme pain and discomfort for long periods”.

In a later interview, Bowman said he had judged the animal fit enough for transport and pointed out that it hadalso been accepted by the haulier who took it to Derbyshire.

Mr Cole said Bowman had neglected the animal for three months and that he should have slaughtered it at his farm instead of transporting and selling it.

Both transporters involved and the market in Penrith were issued with written warnings over the incident, he added.

John Savage, defending, said Bowman, a member of the National Dairy Board and NFU county chairman between 2008 and 2010, had suffered an “extraordinary blow” as a result of being brought before the court.

He is a man of previous exemplary character with no previous convictions, said Mr Savage.

Bowman had also maintained that the cow’s eye had been closed and the “extremely unpleasant” sight that the vet at the abattoir had been faced with was “more than likely” a consequence of the long journey.

Mr Savage said: “It was not a case of him [Bowman] chancing his arm to make a bit more money on the animal.”

Mr Savage also insisted the cow had not been totally neglected.

Bowman, 42, admitted failing in his duty to protect the animal from pain, suffering injury and disease, and contravening an order by allowing it to be transported in an unfit state in a way likely to cause injury or undue suffering.

Two other charges, which he had denied, of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal, and causing a cow to be transported when it was not fit, were dropped.

District Judge Gerald Chalk ordered Bowman to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work and told him to pay court costs of £5,460.12 as well as a £60 statutory surcharge.

The judge added that it was not necessary or proportionate to ban Bowman from keeping animals because it was his livelihood.

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