Pig cruelty row farmer found dead

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A farmer who was being investigated over allegations of cruelty to pigs has been found dead at his home.

The body of Stephen Brown, 52, of Harling Farm, near Thetford, Norfolk, was discovered yesterday morning. Police said his death is not believed to be suspicious.

The RSPCA began investigating this week after animal rights group Animal Equality produced video footage of pigs being kicked, slapped and beaten with iron bars.

The group sent an undercover investigator to work at the farm for two months last summer and gathered more than 200 hours of footage and 300 photographs.

In an emotional interview with the BBC, Mr Brown said: “It does look bad but the only thing I feel is that some of it has been dramatised.”

One section of the footage showed a worker repeatedly beating a pig on the face with a plastic rod. The same worker is seen using an iron bar to beat a pig to death, raining down repeated strikes until the animal is left twitching on the concrete.

An RSPCA spokesman said: “The footage is some of the most shocking we have ever received and we are taking this most seriously.”

Animal Equality said the investigation “marks the beginning of an intensive campaign to reveal the true face of animal farming in Britain”.

The farm had been approved by the Red Tractor food quality assurance scheme, which aims to ensure responsible farming methods. The group had suspended the farm from the programme pending an inspection.

A spokesman for Norfolk Police said: “At this stage there do not appear to be any suspicious circumstances to the death and an inquest will be held in due course.”