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Bovine kept in dark

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A West Yorks farmer has been slapped with a £150 fine for keeping a cow in a darkened barn and therefore failing to 'meet the psychological needs' of the bovine.

Ronald Norcliffe, 65, was nabbed under the Animal Welfare Act in August 2008 when operatives from Kirklees Environmental Health department and the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) visited his Scammonden farm on a tuberculosis test mission.

According to the Telegraph, they asked Norcliffe where he intended to keep his the cow and its calf in winter. He indicated a barn under his house, but was informed it was "unsuitable because it had little natural light, no electric lights and the doors were kept closed".

A Defra vet served an improvement notice, and Norcliffe, who has no electricity in his own abode, said he'd run some lights from a generator. However, during two further inspections the lights "were not switched on".

Cue a short break from farming for Norcliffe to appear before Huddersfield magistrates. Bob Carr, defending, was evidently less than impressed with the prosecution. He ridiculed: "I don't know what the psychological or ethological needs of these cows are and I'm sure Mr Norcliffe doesn't either.

"I still have no idea how much lighting is appropriate for a cow - and this man, who has had 30 years of farming experience and is keeping these animals healthy, is none the wiser. In my respectful submission this didn't do any harm whatsoever."

Magistrates disagreed, and we suspect Norcliffe is now balancing the cost of a few gallons of petrol and a light bulb against the aforementioned £150 fine, £50 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

And before you lot go off on one about how the country's gone completely bonkers, a Kirklees Council spokesman clarified that this was the first Animal Welfare Act prosecution it had brought in nine years.

He elaborated: "Our animal health and welfare officers paid several visits to Mr Norcliffe and worked hard to find simple, low-cost solutions - some as simple as cleaning windows and trimming back bushes obscuring the windows which could have been easily introduced. We offered help and advice, but Mr Norcliffe failed to improve conditions for his livestock." ®

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