BELFAST – A Swanville pig farmer who has veteran connections is in court facing 13 animal cruelty charges.
“Jerry Ireland did what every farmer has done for hundreds of years. What farmers do every day across the state, and that is to put down some farm animals, some pigs in this case,” said defense attorney Hunter Tzovarras, during his opening statement.
“It’s allowed under the law to kill your animals if you do so in a humane way,” said Assistant District Attorney William Entwisle. “The state’s evidence will show these animals were not killed in a humane way. And that’s defined in the statue as by causing instantaneous death. That is not what happened here.”
Ireland was under investigation by Swanville Animal Control Officer Heidi Blood, who had reached out to state officials after reporting failed attempts to reach the farmer.
An inspection was scheduled for March 28, 2018. Ireland took things into his own hands the day before, Entwisle said.
“Mr. Ireland knew that the state of Maine agents were coming and that prompted him to take this desperate and heinous action of killing these pigs in a way that was inhumane and did not cause instantaneous death,” the prosecutor said.
His defense attorney countered with, “Jerry put them down because they were breeders. He couldn’t sell them off, and he couldn’t breed them anymore. So he had to make a decision to put them down.
“The way that Jerry put them down is the way that farmers put down animals all the time,” Tzovarras said. “It’s the preferred method of doing it. He shot them in the head. He went up to each pig, shot it in the head and their throats were slit and they died right away. That is what Jerry intended to do and that’s what he wanted to do. He didn’t want these animals to suffer.”
After Ireland was charged, he was kicked out as a leader of the United Farmer Veterans of Maine.
“Everywhere we go we have that, for lack of a better term we call it ‘The Jerry stink.’ Because … there is still people who think he still runs this organization and that is just, nothing could be further from the truth. We basically forced him out a year and a half ago. We’re very slowly rebuilding the organization.”
He added, “As a veteran organization to have a veteran accused of what he’s accused of it just hurt us. Our membership dropped. The hate mail was relentless for months after that incident on the farm.”
Four members of the organization attended the trial and another one is a witness for the prosecution.
“You have somebody who is supposedly an advocate for veterans and it turns out he was an advocate for himself,” Sousa said.
There is a break in the trial on Tuesday but it is scheduled to resume for final arguments on Wednesday.