A LEIGHTON farmer has protested at the way in which sheep were slaughtered just yards from his own home last weekend and urged fellow farmers to ensure their animals ‘die with respect and dignity.’

Mr David Owens, of Trelystan, Leighton,(pictured) was horrified last Saturday when ministry officials and a ministry vet began to slaughter 160 sheep under the "dangerous contact" directive within 20 yards of his home.

Mr Owens said: ‘Under the dangerous contact directive, 160 sheep, not belonging to myself, were gathered into an inadequate, makeshift pen within 20 yards of my home. So called, licensed slaughterers then proceeded to shoot these pregnant sheep at random. Live sheep were able to trample over dead. This was carried out under the direction and supervision of Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food officials and a MAFF appointed vet who took sole charge of the operation.’

When Mr Owens protested about the slaughter taking place outside his door he was told it had to go ahead there as they only had six hurdles in which to kill the 160 sheep.

He said: ‘They stopped the cull at once when I protested, they were killing inside a pig wire fence immediately behind the parish noticeboard in full view of any passers-by because inadequate road closures had been made. Neighbours later phoned me to say they had driven past and were distressed by the sight.

‘We received no notification or communication from MAFF prior to the slaughter opposite our home. No thought was given about children living in the vicinity and therefore able to witness the event.’

To stop the cull being carried out by his home Mr Owens lent the MAFF officials his own sheep hurdles so that they could carry on with the cull away from the road.

He said: ‘As a flock owner caught up in this crisis I appeal to farmers who, unfortunately, have to go through a similar ordeal, to gather as much evidence as possible concerning the slaughter of livestock. Photographic evidence of the Trelystan kill has been retained by myself.

‘While every effort is being made to control the disease through a slaughter policy, it must not be at the expense of the welfare of our livestock. The ‘professionals’ must not be desensitised by their actions but must be held accountable. Every effort must be made to ensure our animals die with respect and dignity.’

Mr Owens said that the police were called to the scene and asked by the MAFF officials to confiscate the film in his camera. This request was refused by the officer who said he had no authority to do so.

Mr Owens has passed on his complaint to Lembit Opik MP, the secretary of Newtown branch of the Farmers Union for Wales, Glyn Davies AM, and the chief veterinary officer at MAFF.

Susan Jones, chief officer of the FUW's Montgomeryshire branch, said: "I was very disturbed by the incident and it concerns me that MAFF officials are turning up to slaughter animals without the proper and sufficient equipment.

‘It is beyond belief and it is something that I will be taking up with MAFF. People should be better consulted and I agree with Mr Owens that more consideration should be given to the animals.’

Lembit Opik MP said: ‘Fixing foot and mouth should not mean junking animal welfare. We all know the need for quick and efficient culling but that's no excuse for throwing animal welfare out of the window. I am looking into the case.’