Slaughter on a sunny afternoon
Down democrat, 8/4/2003
Over 100 dead and dying sheep have been discovered on a farm near Maghera.

Over 100 dead and dying sheep have been discovered on a farm near Maghera. Department of Agriculture officials, Down Council Environmental Health Officers and Police swooped on the Hollybush Road farm last week. Winding up the operation on Friday, DARD vets were preparing for the slaughter, on humanitarian grounds, of a further 100 sheep they judged too weak to make a recovery from what appeared to be severe neglect. The farm raid and the horrific scenes it uncovered has shocked the closely knit farming community in Maghera. Local people told the Democrat they had been concerned for some time about animals wandering about on the roads surrounding the farm of Maurice McKibbin. It was when reports of those concerns reached DARD officials that the Department mounted an investigation which uncovered 110 sheep lying dead on the farmer's land. Further investigations uncovered scores more sheep and lambs which were so weak from malnutrition they had to be put down. It is understood a full report will be made by Departmental officials and possible future prosecution of the farmer considered. Mr. McKibbin angrily expelled members of the Press from his farm on Friday and made no comment on the grim discoveries made on his land.  Local Councillor, Gerry Douglas said he was saddened by the tragic scenes being uncovered just yards from his own home. But he stressed that whatever had happened on Mr. McKibbin's land was in no way representative of the vast majority of other local farmers. And he suggested that some farmers can be tempted to keep too many sheep on their fields because of the lucrative European subsidies this attracts. "Tragedies like this reflect badly on the farming community as a whole. "But that community does not deserve this. I know that 99 per cent of farmers are proper and responsible custodians of the land and the industry is having a hard enough time at the moment without incidents like this," he said. Councillor Douglas said he did not know the detail of what had happened on the Maghera farm raided by DARD officials but said that cruelty to farm livestock must always be properly dealt with. "Whatever has happened, it is a tragedy. But cases of cruelty must be properly dealt with by the relevant authorities. The overwhelming majority of farmers look after their livestock properly at all times and I am sad for them that incidents like this one in Maghera will bring criticism they simply do not deserve," he said.