Scores of horses ponies and donkeys were left to starve among rotting
horse eye
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carcasses at a family-run farm in the worst case of animal cruelty vets had ever seen, a court heard.

Hooves and body parts of horses were discovered scattered around Spindle Farm at Hyde Heath in Amersham, Buckinghamshire as well as a mound made up of bones and skulls, it was claimed.

A total of 140 animals needed rescuing from the horse trading business run by the Gray family which was described as a 'horror scene' by RSPCA.

Many animals were allegedly left with little food or dry bedding and were crammed into pens that were ankle deep in their own faeces.

They were also surrounded by the rotting corpses of other animals that had been left to die of starvation, the court heard.

Vets described it as the worst case of animal cruelty they had ever seen.

In total 115 animals, some severely emaciated, had to be rescued and removed from the farm during a huge operation in January this year,

James Gray, 45, Julie Gray, 41, Jodie Gray, 26, Cordelia Gray, 20, and a teenage boy who cannot be named are standing trial at Bicester Magistrates Court where they face a total of 12 charges under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

They relate to causing unnecessary suffering to and failing to meet the welfare needs of horses, ponies and donkeys.

Robert Seabrook QC, outlining the prosecution's case to the court, said that two RSPCA inspectors first visited Spindle Farm on January 4 this year where they were confronted with a "grotesque and distressing state of affairs".

He said a number of horses were discovered in "disgusting pens", some were tethered individually and other were loose in the paddocks.

Many horses were next to carcasses in varying states of decomposition and the smell of rotting flesh was "overpowering", said the prosecutor.

"A number of animals that were found had plainly been dead for a number of days and as it turns out, some for many months, " Mr Seabrook added.

The court heard in one pen three severed hooves were found alongside the bodies of two horses - none of which belonged to them.

Mr Seabrook said vet Katherine Robinson who was called to the scene immediately found eight horses emaciated and described the suffering as the worst she had ever seen.

Miss Robinson sank to above her ankles in faeces, urine and straw when she entered one pen, said Mr Seabrook.

The court heard that over 15 different carcasses were found around the site which "had died on their feet from starvation", it was claimed.

Mr Seabrook said: "There was no indication they had been shot or euthanised. They were left to die and suffered unnecessarily."

A second vet said it was the worst case of cruel neglect and suffering he had encountered in 40 years of practice.

Four horses had to be put down immediately, including a mare suffering from extreme emaciation, chronic diarrhoea and a severe eye infection. The trial continues.