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Moray farmer Samuel Hessin given lifetime ban for ‘worst’ animal neglect which left witnesses in tears


By Alistair Whitfield

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Moray farmer Samuel Hessin has been banned for life from looking after farm animals after the death of more than a hundred calves near Keith.

The scenes that greeted animal welfare workers when they came to Balnamoon Farm. Image: Moray Council. Some of the other photos are too disturbing to show.
The scenes that greeted animal welfare workers when they came to Balnamoon Farm. Image: Moray Council. Some of the other photos are too disturbing to show.

Elgin Sheriff Court was told that several animal welfare workers had been moved to tears by the conditions at Balnamoon Farm, which they described as the worst they had ever seen.

A total of 42 dead calves were found on November 21, 2021, strewn around the location by a vet accompanied by officers from Moray Council.

Another 54 had to be put down when a large team returned to the farm two days later.

The remainder of the young cows – the majority of which were suffering from diarrhoea –were transported to different farms. Five died during the following days.

The yellow dots (44) represent where the dead carcasses were located on November 23, 2021. The pink dots (54) represent those euthanised two days later. The green dots (42) represent those rehomed, five of which later died.Image: Moray Council
The yellow dots (44) represent where the dead carcasses were located on November 23, 2021. The pink dots (54) represent those euthanised two days later. The green dots (42) represent those rehomed, five of which later died.Image: Moray Council

The court heard a sizeable number of the calves also had medical problems such as pneumonia and ringworm.

In addition, there was a shortage in some parts of the farm of animal feed, water and clean straw for bedding.

Fiscal depute Shay Treanor said that Hessin had shown a “total disregard for the animals”.

Sheriff David Harvie questioned why the case had not been brought to the High Court which has greater sentencing powers.

He added: “This is one of the most distressing cases I have ever seen as a summary case.

“Some have described it as the worst suffering and animal conditions they had ever seen. People were moved to tears. I’m close to that myself. I have looked at the photographs.”

A calf kept in the same pen as dead ones. Image: Moray Council.
A calf kept in the same pen as dead ones. Image: Moray Council.

Defence counsel Grant Daglish stated that his client had been in dire financial straits, and therefore hadn’t had the money to pay for vet fees or to dispose of the carcasses.

In a separate case two years ago Hessin was given a decade-long ban on keeping dogs after he was found guilty of running an illegal puppy farm.

It came after 60 dogs and puppies were rescued from Balnamoon Farm.

The animals were male dairy calves. Image: Moray Council.
The animals were male dairy calves. Image: Moray Council.

In relation to the new case involving the calves, Hessin pleaded guilty to one charge of causing unnecessary suffering, and another of failing to dispose of the dead bodies.

The maximum jail sentence that can be handed down in a sheriff court for these offences is a year

It was stated that due to legal reasons, this would result in Hessin being freed again in “a matter of weeks”.

Sheriff Harvie opted instead to order him to carry out the maximum 300 hours of unpaid work for the community.

In addition, a 12-month curfew was imposed, meaning that Hessin must remain indoors between 7pm and 7am.

As well as the lifetime ban on keeping farm animals, Hessin was also placed under the court’s supervision for the next 12 months, and told to return in three months so he can be monitored.

A total of 44 dead calves were found at various locations around the farm. Image: Moray Council.
A total of 44 dead calves were found at various locations around the farm. Image: Moray Council.

The court heard that the farm is now being run by Hessin’s son.

Sheriff Harvie warned the 50-year-old against attempting to have anything to do with the business.

He said: “You have no say about any animal ever again.”


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