Farmer jailed after starving pigs ate each other alive
ONE of Ireland's biggest pig farmers was jailed for 18 months after his starving animals cannibalised each other in what a judge described as "cruelty on an industrial scale".
Rory O'Brien (60) was jailed after admitting he caused unnecessary suffering to his pigs - which had eaten each other alive, with some feeding off dead animals in their pens.
Other animals were found badly injured while some filthy pig units were overrun by rats.
O'Brien, whose north Cork pig unit handled up to 20,000 animals, now owes €22m to the banks with Cork Circuit Criminal Court told his finances are "absolutely catastrophic".
The father-of-five pleaded guilty to a number of animal cruelty charges.
Judge Sean O'Donnabhain said he had "never come across anything like this before".
"This was cruelty on an industrial scale. This is a different league altogether.
"He openly defied them (the Department of Agriculture). What brazenness in the context of the evidence," he said as he noted that O'Brien had even written to inspectors insisting his farm met the highest standards.
On one occasion, a Department of Agriculture inspector felt so threatened by O'Brien she had to call the gardaí.
On another occasion, an inspector became upset at workmen watering plants in the garden while pigs inside the shed suffered in May heat without adequate food and water.
One pig had an untreated abscess the size of a small football on its leg.
O'Brien of Killicane, Mitchelstown, Co Cork, admitted five animal welfare charges.
They ranged from May 3 to September 8 2011 and involved animals left injured or, in one sample case, eaten alive.
Inspector John McConville of the Department of Agriculture's special investigations unit said the welfare issues were entirely about management and not money. "It was very bad management. This should not have been happening," he said.
Rory O'Brien ranked as one of the largest-scale pig farmers in Ireland.
He waged a high-profile campaign against the closure by Dairygold of its Galtee Meats plant in Mitchelstown in 2007.
O'Brien's pig operation was four times the size of the average Irish pig farm and employed more than 40 people.