Family deny owning starving pigs
The family living on a Co Down farm where 300 starving pigs and cattle were found today denied owning the livestock.
It emerged today that some members of the Beck family have a string of convictions for animal cruelty and had been banned from keeping livestock.
Last year a court banned Robert Beck and his two sons Clarke and Graham from keeping animals after they were convicted of masterminding Northern Ireland's worst ever puppy farm.
The USPCA raided the farm at Ballyroney Road, Katesbridge last night. Dozens of dead pigs and cattle were discovered.
Officials described the living conditions of the animals as among the worst they had ever encountered.
Most of the livestock were starving, roaring and forced to stand in knee-deep, stagnant water and faeces.
Some of the animals were lying dead on top of dung heaps with their legs in the air. A mass grave was also unearthed after officials used a digger to remove a giant pile of muck.
Steven Philpott Chief Executive of the USPCA said the farm was a shambles which had no animal welfare provision.
He said "This was an appalling scene of animal cruelty. The farm was heavily stocked and overcrowded."
The owners of the animals could face a prison sentence the USPCA have warned.
David Wilson, a spokesman for the USPCA, said courts were imposing tougher sentences for animal cruelty convictions.
"If they are found guilty they can expect a prison sentence," Mr Wilson told the Belfast Telegraph.
He added: "The family on whose farm the animals were found are denying ownership. They say they just feed them."
The USPCA was due to meet with police and the Department of Agriculture today to discuss the future of the pigs and cattle.
The swoop followed a tip-off to the USPCA.
A PSNI spokeswoman added: "We will be supporting the USPCA in whatever they decide to do. If necessary we will bring charges of animal cruelty."