Thursday, 23 January 2020
Two generations of farmers have been sentenced to 5 months in prison for continuing to raise and abuse farm animals despite previously receiving three lifelong bans from doing so.
The two couples of farmers from the Flemish town of Heikruis, who are referred to in Belgian media as “the worst farmers in Belgium,” were also ordered to pay a combined €56,000 fine by Brussels’ Court of Appeals.
The two couples were put on trial after food safety authorities seized more than a dozen sheep from their property during the latest inspection of their farm in February 2019, with the animals found jammed in a small makeshift pen, HLN reports.
In previous convictions, the family have been fined repeatedly, with animal welfare authorities seizing at least 12 turkeys, 36 chickens, 2 geese and over a hundred sheep from their farm in repeated inspections since 2017, VRT reports.
All of the animals seized were severely neglected and were being kept by the farmers despite judges repeatedly issuing lifelong bans on raising animals in three different instances, according to HLN.
To circumvent the ban, the couple had got new animals and registered them in the name of the woman’s parents, with the court this targetting the two couples with a new lifelong ban on raising animals.
“It’s clear that the family lives and keeps the animals together,” the judge said in the verdict. “The facts constitute serious infringements and a serious violation of animal welfare.”
“The farmer couples have already had more than enough opportunities,” Flanders’ animal welfare minister, Ben Weyts, said, adding that the family dismissed the help offered to them by a farmers association.
The court ordered each member of one couple to pay a €40,000, with the older couple, whose name was used to get around the younger couple’s ban, fined €16,000 each.
“If they cannot pay the fine, [their sentence] will be converted to 8 months in prison,” Weyts said.
The Brussels Times