Cheshire farmer pleads guilty to animal cruelty charges
Jun 2 2008 Chester Chronicle
A FARMER who accused Defra and Cheshire Trading Standards officials of an ‘18-month witch hunt‘ against him has pleaded guilty to charges of animal cruelty.
David Dobbin, formerly of Chorlton Lodge Farm, Backford, and his partner Jayne Lofthouse, will appear for sentencing before Chester Crown Court on June 20.
The defendants have also pleaded guilty to a conspiracy relating to the illegal burial of carcasses, contrary to the Animal By-Products Regulations, that govern their disposal.
Guilty pleas have also been entered to sample charges of altering the identity of cattle by switching their ear tags, contrary to strict cattle identification regulations that ensure traceability and protect the food chain.
Despite monitoring and advice provided by Defra and Cheshire Trading Standards Officers, the situation and the conditions on the farm deteriorated to such an extent that cattle were seized and several animals had to be humanely destroyed.
A burial pit was discovered on the farm and multiple carcases were exhumed.
Dobbin was granted leave to seek judicial review of Defra’s action in seizing the cattle but was unable to stop the destruction of his herd.
In February 2007 Defra barrister George Peretz told the High court that Dobbin had shown a “flagrant disregard” for the system of identification measures introduced in the wake of “mad cow” disease.
The case attracted national publicity after Dobbin had accused Defra and Cheshire Trading Standards of mounting a ‘witch hunt ‘against him.
Dobbin, currently believed to be living in his native Ireland, is facing charges for alleged fraud and deception offences in other parts of the country
What is there to say? The worst tragedy is that he has been labelled a farmer and that’s not fair on the rest of them!
Email received from Cumbria March 18 2007in response to the story of the destruction of Mr Dobbin's prize-winning dairy herd.
To say I am seething is an understatement! Once again I see our rural communities have been subjected to the bullying, incompetence and intimidation that we endured in 2001.
Recent events in respect of Mr Dobbins dairy herd must not go unchallenged! It is, once again too late to save this superb herd. Mr Dobbin will receive no compensation and yet again I can only imagine the unbelievably incompetent DEFRA will continue being the useless department we now know it is. It is indeed "Unfit for purpose".
Thousands of dairy farms have now evaporated since 2001. Many more will go over the next few years. Our hill farms are all but gone and the industry is on its knees.
What more can I say? In 2001 I firmly believed that the FMD fiasco was an excellent stage for HMG to really turn the screw on British Agriculture. It is now blatantly obvious their aim is to completely destroy the industry; they are certainly achieving their goals.
I simply cannot state my views any more succinctly Mary! These people (DEFRA) are despised here and any reasonable person can only assume they are loathed country wide.
Nothing more to say!
PS Please pass on my regards and support to the Dobbins family. Nick
Papers were not in order, so they had to die
Christopher Booker's notebookSunday Telegraph March 18 2007
Of all the stories I have covered about what is now called the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, few have been more remarkable than the disaster that has just befallen David Dobbin, a 43-year-old Cheshire farmer, who derived his entire livelihood from a large dairy herd. His 567 cows, including pedigree Ayrshires and Holsteins, had won prizes, and were worth upwards of #500,0000.
In 2005 Cheshire trading standards officials, acting for Defra (one hopes Cheshire's taxpayers do not mind officials whose salaries they pay acting for a government department) began a long series of visits, to inspect the documentation required for Mr Dobbin's cattle under EC rules. The more they attempted to check the animals' eight-digit ear tags against their EC "cattle passports", the more they claimed to have found "irregularities", although they failed to explain how many or what these were.
Last November, on Defra's instructions, the officials seized all Mr Dobbin's passports, making it illegal for him to move animals off his farm and all but wiping out his income. Last month, serving him with a "notice to identify", they removed his herd to another farm, stating that, under EC regulation 494/98, it was their intention to destroy all 567 animals.
Dating back to the BSE panic, this diktat says that "if the keeper of an animal cannot prove its identification in two working days, it shall be destroyed without delay" and "without compensation". These powers, as I noted when the regulation was issued in 1998, were unprecedented. Nevertheless the regulation permits officials to destroy only animals that cannot be identified. Defra has never claimed that the paperwork for most of Mr Dobbin's cows was not in order, only that the officials had found "what they believed to be an unacceptable level of non-compliance with the regulations", and that this "could have serious implications for the protection of the human food chain".
Less than an hour before slaughter was due to begin, Mr Dobbin's combative Liverpool lawyer, David Kirwan, got a High Court injunction, giving the cows a stay of execution. He also won leave from Mr Justice Goldring for judicial review, on the grounds that Defra was acting beyond its powers. But this month, as the injunction expired, Defra insisted that, unless Mr Dobbin could prove the identification of every one of his animals, they must still be destroyed. Since all his passports, the most obvious means of identification, had been confiscated, this was impossible.
Defra told the court that Mr Dobbin would instead have to provide DNA identification for each animal, within two days. This would have been technically impossible, even if Defra had not moved the cows elsewhere and refused him access.
The need to proceed with the slaughter, Defra argued, was urgent, because it had no resources to look after the cattle properly, causing severe "animal welfare" problems. The judge felt he had little option but to give the go-ahead, and on March 8 and 9 the cows were destroyed.
All Mr Dobbin can now hope for is that the judicial review may confirm that Defra acted outside the law. The officials agreed in court that they had never used these powers on anything like such a scale before. It has not been claimed that Mr Dobbin's animals posed any health risk (BSE this year is down to a single case). His only alleged offence was "non-compliance" with complex bureaucratic procedures, to an extent which Defra still cannot specify. For this he has seen his livelihood go up in smoke, without a penny in compensation.