Pig farmer inquest returns suicide verdict

The inquest into the death of a Norfolk pig farmer, whose farm was being investigated over allegations of animal cruelty, confirmed that the farmer committed suicide “while in a disturbed state of mind”.

Police were called to Harling Farm on Wednesday 15 February after the body of 52-year-old Brown was found. The post mortem confirmed that he had died from a gun-shot wound to the head.

Norfolk Coroner William Armstrong said he understood that farmer Stephen Brown had received “abusive and malicious” telephone calls following intense media scrutiny of the farm, after vegan group Animal Equality released undercover footage of pigs being beaten, thrown around and left dying in their pens. The RSPCA, which has launched an investigation, said the footage showed some of the worst cruelty they had ever seen.

Armstrong said: “I understand there had been an investigation at his farm by the RSPCA into matters which are in no way the subject of this inquest.

“I simply note this investigation took place and I note from evidence given by his father that Stephen was extremely distressed by recent events.

“It’s clear from all the evidence at the scene and the investigation by police that Stephen had shot himself and that his death would have been instantaneous.”

Speaking at the inquest, Brown’s father said that his son had been extremely upset about the prosecution and, although he hadn’t been implicated in what was going on, he had felt it was his responsibility.

An undercover investigator from vegan group Animal Equality filmed at Harling Farm for 72 days from July to September 2011, collecting over 200 hours of footage and more than 300 photos, which Animal Equality claimed showed “appalling scenes of suffering, pain and physical and psychological violence”. However, the group waited six months to release the footage, using it to launch a high-profile anti-meat media campaign.

Animal Equality UK refused to comment on Brown’s death, however it did remove insulting and offending comments which had been posted on from its Facebook page.

>Animal Equality defends investigation

>Farmer at centre of animal cruelty probe found dead

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