By Lawrence Powell
Almost three years after his arrest, Spa Springs farmer Alan Elliott has been convicted on two counts of cruelty to animals and will be sentenced in Annapolis Royal provincial court on April 6.
Elliott was in court January 28 when Judge Jean-Louis Batiot handed down his decision.
The 69-year-old farmer has represented himself since March 23, 2006 when the SPCA descended on his farm with a search warrant and rounded up about 138 head of cattle.
Elliott was picked up without incident by RCMP at about 7:30 a.m. that day at his sister’s home and held in cells at the detachment in Kingston.
The SPCA, police, cattle wranglers, and others spent almost 21 hours at the farm in what was described at the time as the largest SPCA seizure in Nova Scotia history.
The SPCA, under the supervision of provincial president Judith Gass, entered the barn on Elliott’s property and hauled out dead animals before loading the surviving cattle on trailers and delivering them to the Annapolis Valley Exhibition grounds in Lawrencetown where the animals were inspected, sorted, and reloaded for transport to Sussex, NB.
At Elliott’s farm dozens of Charolais beef cattle were in pasture and woods on the south side of the road and ranchers spent most of the day rounding them up and coaxing them across the pavement, through a gorge, and up a hill to the barn where they could be contained for loading.
They went on foot, on all-terrain vehicles, and used hay on the forks of a tractor to entice the starving animals. One animal that was endangering the lives of the wranglers was shot by a marksman.
The search warrant was issued after the SPCA received test results from Truro where they had sent several dead animals from the farm two weeks before. Autopsy results showed that the animals had died from starvation.
Although the SPCA had been involved in the Elliott case for some months, they had never been able to get evidence of cruelty because they didn’t have a recent death.
Gass said when she arrived at the farm on March 23, 2006, she was appalled at what she found in the barn which she said was a foot deep in a cesspool mixture of manure and urine. They found six dead animals and others lying in the filth twitching and near death. All told, six animals were put down during the operation.
Crews used a front-end loader to remove dead animals from the barn and then used machinery to clean out the manure, making clean space for the animals being brought in from the woods.
The SPCA had been involved with Elliott for some time, and supplied hay for his cattle over the winter.
Elliott’s plight first became public in a Spectator story published on March 2, 2006. In that story Elliott recounted his run-in with the Department of National Defence in December of 1999. He claims a helicopter contaminated his property and poisoned his organically certified herd.
The military says its investigation showed the aircraft did not actually touch down at all, but hovered over a neighbour’s land, not Elliott’s.
Elliott has always insisted it landed on one of his pastures, possibly poisoning his cattle by contaminating the soil and runoff water.
In 2002 Elliott said he saw oil in water on his land and decided to stop selling his milk and meat and not let any of the cattle leave the farm. Consequently, Elliott had no income and no way to feed his cattle through the winter months. In the Spectator story, Elliot said he had only enough hay left for a few days.
In an open letter to the media after the SPCA raid, Elliott said the question to ask is why some cattle were fat and others were thin. He believed the thin cattle were dying from metabolic failure due to poisoning.
Elliott convicted of cruelty to animals
Spa Springs farmer to be sentenced on two counts April 6
By Lawrence Powell
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