Police are investigating the discovery of nine dead and 60 emaciated horses and ponies on a farm in Northern Ireland, echoing the Spindles Farm case in 2008.

The animals were found on a farm in Co Antrim on 22 November. They had been left without food or water and were standing knee-deep excrement.

Vets say the scene was reminiscent of those in 2008 when more than 100 horses, donkeys and ponies were removed from a farm in Bucks.

Vet Nic de Brauwere of Redwings was part of the rescue at the farm. He said the conditions were “as bad as anything he had seen in 20 years working in horse welfare“.

“It was imperative that action was taken to protect the horses, ponies and donkeys from further suffering,” he added.

The Donkey Sanctuary also stepped in to help.

Allen Andrews of the Donkey Sanctuary said: “It was clear that these animals had been severely neglected and the surviving horses and donkeys were the most emaciated I have ever seen.

Only time will tell whether these desperate animals will be able to recover fully.”

All 10 donkeys were taken to the Donkey Sanctuary’s Northern Ireland centre and the other animals to the Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary in Ballynoe.

Sergeant Alison Liddle from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said: “No animal should be made to endure such horrendous cruelty.

This has made us determined to pursue the persons responsible.”

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (8 December)