FARMERS who were cleared of breaching animal health laws have told of how the “unnecessary” charges almost killed off their business.

Richard Lennox, 66, and his son Alex, 31, had been accused of loading and transporting an injured sheep to an abattoir.

The two farmers, who run Wick Farm, in Layer, stood trial at Colchester Magistrates’ Court, but were cleared on all counts.

The court found in favour of the pair, who said the sheep suffered a broken leg in the back of the lorry while en route to Romford Halal.

They argued it was more humane to have the sheep killed at the abattoir than waiting for a vet on a Sunday.

Speaking following their aquittal, the two men spoke of the impact the trial had on their business.

“I don’t think a lot of people understand that it’s nearly 18 months we have had this hanging over our heads,” they said.

“People don’t realise the money we have lost out of it - after being found not guilty on four charges, after the magistrate at the end said it shouldn’t have been brought to court.”

They added: “With the farming of sheep and cattle it isn’t easy.

“We do everything we possibly can. The sheep broke its leg in the lorry en route.

“She was already in there, she was put down within three quarters of an hour.

“This was the best thing that could have been done in these circumstances, and that was confirmed by the court."

Throughout 66 years of farming, Richard Lennox says the trial isn’t the first issue or controversy he has faced.

In the 1990s, there was a growing public outcry and protest over the live transportation of sheep overseas through Brightlingsea, which the father and son recall.

“A lot of people actually picked up on the fact this was a halal place, despite the fact the animals are killed there in the same way as every other abattoir,” they said.

“It is the same as going anywhere else, the same method of killing.

“We had three cards through the door saying some annoying things about us being cruel.”

They added: “Any slaughtering of this nature a lot of people just don’t like.

“This farm is farm-assured, we have inspectors come out once or twice a year to see how we keep the animals.

“We could give to supermarkets. The markets and everybody we sell to gave us wonderful feedback for the magistrates to read.”

The pair said their meat sales business had suffered as a result, with three employees facing uncertainty over their jobs.

“We have lots of support in Layer, but there was an impact on takings,” said Richard.

“The guys were quiet about it, they didn’t know whether they would lose their jobs.”