James Gray did not intend to mistreat his animals, a highly-respected vet has told the trial at Bicester Magistrates Court.

John Parker, a former chairman of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, told the court that he thought Gray’s animals had not been starved, rather they were suffering from encysted red worm.

Speaking at the trial yesterday (11 March) Mr Parker said that was his opinion after looking at RSPCA photographs of the 111 horses, ponies and donkeys removed from Gray’s Spindle Farm, in Hyde Heath in January 2008.

James Gray, 45, his wife Julie, 41, and daughters Jodie, 26, and Cordelia, 20, deny 10 counts of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, and two counts of neglecting an animal’s welfare.

A 15-year-old boy, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, has also pleaded not guilty to the same charges.

Mr Parker said that he understood that Mr Gray wormed every 10 weeks but always used the same product.

He said: “From what I gather he constantly uses the same product and that would not affect resistant larvae. That is why I don’t think he understands the problem.”

The vet described the problem of resistant larvae as “complex” and said it was not fully understood yet by the veterinary profession.

“There were an awful lot of animals that were in good condition. I could not see, in my mind, why some animals would die while others were in extremely good condition,” Mr Parker told the court.

“To me, if animals were being starved, then the whole lot would show it.”

Mr Parker also told the court that cruelty concerns by witnesses who saw Gray pulling a horse into the back of a trailer using ropes tied round its tail and neck were misguided.

He said: “I have got horses out of water jumps in that manner myself, it’s the way to do it. You can’t hold them by their legs or their reaction is to give you a good wallop.”

The trial continues.