A DRUNK lady farmer threatened an RSPCA inspector with a pitchfork after investigators looked at the poor state of 200 animals on her farm.

Diana Swabey, who was seen with a small bottle of alcohol spirits in her back pocket, used the pitchfork to threaten the animal charity officer pointing it towards her face.

Swabey, who was described as “rambling and incoherent”, also squirted water provided for the horses at the RSPCA inspector and was abusive to police at the scene.

A court heard Swabey, 57, was threatening to the RSPCA, vets and police who went to her New House Farm at Hollocombe near Chulmleigh, in March 2022.

Her volatile behaviour led her to receiving a police caution, said prosecutor Lindi Meyer.

Swabey admitted 16 charges under the Animal Welfare Act which related to 81 horses and ponies, four goats, seven rabbits, a goose and other farm animals including cattle, sheep and pigs which lived on 100 acres of land and she was handed a suspended jail sentence and animal banning order.

Miss Meyer said many of the horses were emaciated, some of the farm animals were living in filthy stables with no water and suffering with lice and parasites as they lived in their own wet mess.

She was unable to handle many of the horses and there were 20 stallions getting mares pregnant and on fields cluttered with old machinery and cars, tyres and rusty metal items.

She said she could not afford to pay £160 for slaughterman to take away a lame Charolais bull but knew someone who could turn it into “kebabs”.

Exeter magistrates court heard 81 horses were removed from the farm by the RSPCA. Two ponies had to be put to sleep, one of them was blind and another died while giving birth to a dead foal.

The teeth and hooves of some of the animals were in poor condition and the horses were “unhandled and dangerous”.

The vets said many of the horses and ponies were lacking in basic husbandry and were “exhausted, dull and depressed” emaciated and malnourished, said Miss Meyer.

The prosecutor said it was a case of “prolonged neglect” as opposed to deliberate and gratuitous cruelty.

She said Swabey was “an experienced horse and stockwoman” but “money was at the forefront of her mind”.

Barrister Ian Graham, defending, said Swabey, who has no previous convictions, said: “This is not a case of deliberate animal suffering or deliberate neglect of duty but an unintentional failure.”

He said Swabey was left caring for her bedridden 83 year old mother and had suffered Covid on three occasions herself.

He said the tiredness and fatigue reduced her capacity and it started to affect her mental health and she turned to alcohol as a prop.

He said: “Some of the animals were neglected. The neglect was unintentional and did not reach everywhere."

The magistrates jailed her for 16 weeks, suspended for 18 months, with 150 hours unpaid work on each of the four unnecessary suffering charges - and for the other 12 offences there was no separate penalty.

The magistrates banned her from keeping all animals for 10 years.

She was given three months to sell off the rest of her animals before they will be seized.