BELFAST – The trial of a Swanville farmer accused of animal cruelty in the shooting deaths of a dozen pigs has been extended until Friday.
Jerry Ireland, 41, who is facing 13 counts of animal cruelty, has decided to take the stand in his own defense. That is scheduled to happen Friday morning.
He was charged in March 2018 after his farm was searched by state animal welfare investigators. They said he shot the animals in an inhumane way.
“Jerry put a gun in the back of each one of the pig’s heads and shot it and slit its throat to let it bleed out. And then they buried the pigs in a hole, as you are supposed to do, and covered them up,” Ireland’s defense attorney Hunter Tzovarras said during his opening statement. “And then the pigs in the trailer, he took them off and brought them to the farm where they had sold them.”
That was the day prior to a scheduled state inspection. Ireland contends he was harassed by local and state animal welfare agents.
A state animal welfare agent testified Wednesday they exhumed 10 buried pigs in various degrees of decay during the raid.
A pathologist at the University of Maine’s Veterinary Diagnostic Lab said the three pigs she examined had gunshot wounds to the sides of their heads.
“One man, David Gordon, was onsite when this event happened,” said Williams Entwisle, an assistant attorney general for Maine, during his opening statement. “He’ll testify about what he saw. He’ll testify about what Mr. Ireland said in the course of this event where 12 pigs were killed.”
Gordon is a former county sheriff’s deputy and was part of the United Farmer Veterans of Maine, a veteran’s advocacy group led at the time by Ireland. He testified Monday that it was a chaotic scene on the day Ireland killed his pigs.
“I’m here to see a conclusion to what has been going on for two years,” said Bob Sousa, vice president of the United Farmer Veterans of Maine. “Again, as a veteran organization to have a veteran accused of what he’s been accused of, just hurt us. Our membership dropped. The hate mail was relentless for months after that incident on the farm.”
He said the organization continues to rebuild.
“The question is going to be: Did Jerry put down these animals down in a way, a method that would cause instantaneous death,” Tzovarras said.