A dairy farming couple accused of administering a noxious material to their cows in order to falsify the results of a bovine TB test have been cleared of all charges.
Hefin and Lucy Owen, who milked 150 cows in North Carmarthenshire, said the case, which had rumbled on for two years, almost cost them their business and are now seeking compensation from Defra.
The nightmare unfolded when a routine bTB test in May 2016 uncovered 74 reactors and 21 inconclusive reactors. Thirty animals were slaughtered and a further 44 were kept on the farm in isolation for six months. This left only 50 cows being milked.
Animal and Plant Health Authority (APHA) officials, along with Ceredigion County Council Trading Standards, who later raided the farm with police due to the high number of reactors, alleged Mr Owen had attempted to tamper with the testing regime in order to force a positive result.
Mr Owen said: “They said we had injected a foreign substance into our cattle to make our animals react, but at that point no trace of any substance had been found in any of the 30 cattle after extensive post mortem testing carried out by APHA.
After a five-day hearing, the district judge sitting at Aberystwyth Magistrates Court, found Mr Owen not guilty of all offences.
The couple’s solicitor, Aled Owen of Harrison Clark Rickerbys, said the court heard how individual APHA officers had been negligent and the prosecution had ‘fundamental flaws’ in its evidence.
Mr Owen, whose herd eventually went clear last month, added: “It has been a nightmare from start to finish but we are pleased with the judge’s verdict. And that the truth finally came out in the end.
“We will now be pursuing APHA for the compensation we are owed for the slaughtered animals, loss of production for two years, interest, and damages for being left with a reduced milking herd and not having the capital to buy in new cows.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We are aware of last week’s court ruling and are considering its outcome.”