Turkeys survive the chop
A flock of 50 turkeys destined for the Christmas chop have been rescued from "appalling and cramped" conditions on a farm in south Armagh.
The birds were taken into the care of the USPCA yesterday morning after a rescue operation at the property near Keady.
The animal charity also saved seven geese, two pigs and several calves also believed to be bound for the Christmas market.
The rescue was a joint operation between the USPCA, the PSNI and the Department of Agriculture.
USPCA Chief Executive Stephen Philpott said the Department asked for accompaniment while speaking to the farm owner about the animals.
"When we got there, we discovered that these animals were being kept in the most appalling conditions you can imagine and we decided that we had to get them out," he said.
Mr Philpott went on to describe the stench-filled areas in which the animals were being kept and the horrific conditions his staff had to deal with.
"It would appear the turkeys were being bred for the Christmas market. They were locked in an old derelict house with no day light. Many of them were suffering from obvious signs of distress.
"For example, some were bald, they had clearly been attacking each other and there were carcasses lying on the ground. They had no dry bedding or food and they were living in their own filth. It's hard to describe just how bad the smell was," he said.
Mr Philpott commended his staff for working in such dire conditions.
"The staff had to wear protective masks and clothing. Some of them were working in a foot of slurry or in the pitch dark," he added.
A file is being prepared with a view to prosecuting the owner for cruelty.
Yesterday's rescue is believed to be one of the few occasions all bodies able to investigate cases of suspected animal cruelty have joined up for an operation.
Mr Philpott said the multi-agency approach had been a success.
"I think this is only the second or third time we have managed to get all the agencies on the ground at the same time."