Two men, who hanged a 27-year-old horse from an excavator, killed the horse humanely, a Canadian judge has ruled.

Judge Susan Wishart, sitting at Victoria Provincial Court on Tuesday (14 December) found the two men guilty of cruelty for inadequately feeding the horse “Jalupae” before putting it to death.

She said Clayton Cunningham and David Whiffin, both of Victoria, allowed the horse to starve before hanging it in September 2009. They will be sentenced later.

The Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), who had been following the horse’s welfare before its death, described the case as “particularly heinous”.

But the judge told a local newspaper: “Where death is immediate the law does not require the most dignified means.

“My decision should not be seen as endorsing or condoning this method of euthanasing an animal.

“If there was sufficient evidence here to satisfy me that Jalupae died other than immediately my decision would likely be different.”

Following a visit from the SPCA, a vet visited Whiffin’s farm in September 2009 and found the horse in a very poor condition.

He offered to put the horse down but Whiffin said his backhoe, which he would need to dig a grave for the horse, was not working.

The vet returned a few days later to find Jalupae had been moved.