By Vanessa Allen and Nick
Craven, Daily Mail UK
Pig farmer found dead in suspected suicide after animal rights activists post picture of sow being shot dead in its pen
Married father-of-two Stephen Brown, 52, is believed to have shot himself
Investigation launched this week after covert video shows pigs being kicked and slapped and one being beaten to death with an iron bar
'Tipping point': Pig farmer Stephen Brown was under investigation after serious allegations of animal cruelty were made about his farm
A farmer targeted by animal rights activists has been found dead days after evidence of horrific cruelty on his farm was revealed.
Stephen Brown, 52, is believed to have shot himself in a field after saying he was ‘absolutely gutted’ about the shocking exposé.
An undercover animal rights activist secretly filmed a worker on his Norfolk farm beating a pig to death with an iron bar, kicking piglets and smashing a live animal’s head on to a concrete floor.
Still photographs showed a worker aiming a powerful rifle at a sow and the apparently lifeless body in its pen.
The RSPCA described it as one of the worst cases of animal abuse it had seen and launched its own investigation after the secret footage was released by campaign group Animal Equality last weekend, and welfare and standards group Red Tractor suspended the farm from its quality assurance scheme.
There was no suggestion that Mr Brown was directly involved in the cruelty, but the film included footage of apparent long-term neglect and showed animals with large open sores and festering wounds.
Mr Brown gave an emotional interview to the BBC on Monday in which he said he was hit ‘very hard’ by the film, but claimed it had been ‘dramatised’.
He and his wife Fiona had been due to take their two daughters on a half-term ski trip but cancelled it after the video was released.
A worker at the farm in Norfolk aims a powerful rifle at a sow in its pen. The footage outraged animal rights activists as it also showed apparent long-term neglect of animals with large open sores and festering wounds.
Emaciated pig with a hernia...Shocking: An undercover investigation exposed horrific acts of cruelty to animals on Stephen Brown's farm in Thetford, Norfolk, which supplies meat to leading supermarkets
Police were called to Harling Farm, near Thetford, on Wednesday morning and found his body. Officers said there were no suspicious circumstances.
Mr Brown kept 4,000 pigs on the 500-acre farm, which has been in his family since 1920.
He took it over from his father Michael, 82, a former parish council chairman who still lives with the family on the farm.
Hairdresser Lorraine Mitchell, 40, who once worked as a pig handler on the farm, said: ‘He was a hard-working farmer who cared a lot for his animals.
Grim discovery: This dreadful image of the place where the farm buried the pigs on site was part of evidence forming a case of animal cruelty against farmer Stephen Brown
‘I never saw him do anything bad to the pigs or raise a hand to them.
‘He and his father were great bosses. Whatever actually happened, it was not his fault.’
Mrs Mitchell said she was shocked by his appearance during a TV news interview about the footage, and said he looked like ‘a broken man’. Friend and fellow farmer William Nunn, the leader of Breckland District Council, said he had known Mr Brown for more than 25 years.
‘He was really shocked by the pig thing,’ he said. ‘I think because he was a soft-hearted, caring farmer it caught him off-guard.’
A pig's body found in animal feed...Horrific: Workers were caught on video beating pigs with iron bars, battering piglets, scraping knives across their backs and smashing animals onto concrete floors.
A neighbouring pig farmer, who asked not to be named, said the undercover activist had tried for jobs at other farms in the area.
He said: ‘It seems very unfair to blame Mr Brown for something that he personally had nothing to do with.
‘You can’t be responsible for all your employees throughout every minute of the day. I don’t know Stephen’s employees but I did know him, and he would never, ever treat an animal cruelly.
‘But now he and his wife and his two young daughters have paid the price for someone else’s actions.’
A spokesman for Animal Equality refused to comment. The group supports ‘non-violent direct action’.
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