Search warrant details pig 'execution,' months of violations at Swanville farm

By Stephanie Grinnell | Apr 02, 2018
A photo included with the application for a search warrant of Ireland Hill Farms includes the handwritten annotation: "Dead pig hanging from bucket."

Swanville — A well-known Swanville farmer is being accused of shooting several pigs one day prior to a scheduled inspection by state animal welfare officials.

According to a search warrant filed by District Humane Agent Rae-Ann Demos, the agency was alerted to the alleged “execution” by neighbors March 27. A search warrant of Ireland Hill Farms on Nickerson Road was approved and the property gone over by animal welfare agents the following day. Five dead pigs and one live pig were recovered from the property owned by Jerry Ireland, according to the search warrant.

The Animal Welfare Program has been looking into allegations of neglect, loose animals and lack of shelter at Ireland Hill Farms since November at the request of Animal Control Officer Heidi Blood, Demos said in the search warrant.

Ireland for the past several years has been the face of United Farmer Veterans of Maine, which he founded. According to previously published reports, he began farming in Maine in 2012. At that time, Ireland Hill Farms raised beef, milk cows, laying hens, hog breeding stock, and pigs to sell for pork in addition to maple syrup and more than 35 different varieties of apples as well as vegetables.

Ireland also is a candidate for House District 98 to represent Frankfort, Searsport, Swanville and Winterport.

During repeated visits to the farm, no one was home, Demos said, and it appeared the farm animals did not have access to food, water or shelter. Agents observed a dog tied up outside, shivering, without visible access to food or water as well, Demos said.

“There were two cows and several pigs, I could not see if there was any food or water for the pigs, the cows however were roaming in what appeared to be the remains of a garden, I could not see hay available nor could I see an obvious water supply,” Demos said of a Nov. 16, 2017, visit to the farm. “There was a brown dog tied to a shed and was shivering while sitting there. I did not see any sign of food or water for the dog. We walked to the cabin and knocked at the door several times, no one answered.”

Blood advised Demos that food and water was being supplied to the animals by Nov. 28, 2017, and one building had been repaired. She said she issued another notice to comply for the following: “All buildings and pens must be cleaned out and proper bedding applied, buildings must have three complete side(s) and a waterproof roof, cows must have hay and water in front of them at all times, overcrowding issues for the pigs must be rectified, and ensure all animals are properly contained to your property.”

During check-ins with Ireland Dec. 5 and Dec. 28, 2017, Blood reported the pigs had been moved to an adequate shelter and the dog had been seen by a veterinarian and declared in good health.

Neighbors on Jan. 12 contacted Blood when the path to the pigs had not been plowed following a Jan. 4 and 5 snow storm. The caller indicated Ireland had not been seen at the property for two days. However, the neighbor called again later that day to report Ireland plowed the snow and fed the animals that day.

A visit by agents about a month later found no one present at the property and a request for a phone call was not responded to, Demos said. Blood returned to the farm March 17 after reports there had been no human activity for several weeks and reported there was no food or water for the animals she could see. After several other failed attempts to contact Ireland, Animal Welfare Program Director Liam Hughes discussed the next steps with the Department of Agriculture. Demos said an appointment was set for March 28.

“I explained to Mr. (Caldwell) Jackson (of the Department of Agriculture) that was a very long time from now and that I was afraid there may already be dead animals on the property,” Demos said.

Surveillance of the property showed no activity the weekend of March 23-25. Blood went to the farm March 26, where she spoke with Ireland and asked about his weekend feeding schedule. “Mr. Ireland refused to answer her question,” Demos said. Ireland also refused to let Blood see the animals, according to the search warrant.

The following day, Blood contacted Demos to report “Mr. Ireland was shooting the pigs and she could see a backhoe digging a large hole. She stated she could see one pig hanging from the bucket of the backhoe. She took a few pictures from the road.”

Demos said a distraught neighbor called as well and indicated “this was the second time he has conducted a mass execution of the animals on his property.”

“It is not a crime to humanely euthanize one's own animals, however, due to the uncooperative behavior Mr. Ireland has exhibited over the last few months by denying access to check on the animals, not returning phone call requests and flat out kicking officers off his property … I feel Mr. Ireland's decision to execute all his animals just one day prior to my scheduled inspection leads me to believe he is covering up proof these animals may very well have been emaciated due to lack of consistent feeding and care,” Demos said. “I am requesting this search warrant to remove any live, dead, or unborn animals from the property that are being or have been deprived of necessary sustenance, proper shelter, and humanely clean conditions.”

Reached by phone March 29, Ireland declined to comment on the situation.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Peter Petersen | Apr 03, 2018 14:08

Amazing priorities on the local and state level. 10 miles down the road an 10 year old girl is beaten to death even though state, local authorities were notified many times that their might be serious issues within the household. No official actions resulted until the little girl was dead.

On the other hand a farmer kills some pigs which he has every right to do and the State responds like the Gestapo or KGB. 7 State Troopers and 8 DA agents in bullet proof

vests to dig up 3 dead pigs. What a waste of resources. Too bad those resources where not available to save a little girls life. I guess the vendetta of an overbearing ACO with the connivance of some unhappy neighbors demands more State attention than the protection of a little girl.

Anyway since when has an ACO the right to tell a farmer what feed his pigs and when to slaughter them.

Should our local and state officials not devote all resources at their command to fight the drug problem so systemic in Swanville and let the farmers farm?

One has to wonder what were the motivations of these accusers?

Posted by: Art House | Apr 03, 2018 13:09

This is a terrible set of circumstances. Mr. Ireland has been a visible, vocal proponent of farming and he has ingratiated himself in surrounding communities as some sort of guru authority on ‘living off the earth’ – and presenting his ‘home grown’ – home-made products in local markets and restaurants. All the while, vociferously at all times, reminding everyone who would listen, that he is a ‘veteran’ and that he and his wife serve their communities and the less fortunate. They are toilers of the land and offer up all things good from the land.


The tragedy here is that even if he or they were all these things, which likely they are not, they may just have found themselves on hard times this brutal winter and needed some assistance with their animals, their products and crops or their business operation in general.


If Jerry asked for help his neighbors and many others would have come to his aid. He knew of other pig farmers in the area who he could have called upon for watering assistance, grain if needed, hay bales for both consumption and warmth. He could have boarded his animals out temporarily or donated them or sold them for enough money to buy food for his dog - tied to the porch. We know Jerry on a first name basis – my son raises farm animals and he would have delivered free grain, hay and even water if asked. From the article alone it would appear that his animals (even if run down) would have required at least 20 gallons of water a day to sustain their health. Snow is not enough. My son and his wife would have taken their animals in for the winter and helped them out – they could have asked.


As for other animals on the farm, as mentioned in the article, including beef [cows], milk cows, laying hens, hog breeding stock, and pigs to sell for pork (in addition to maple syrup and more than 35 different varieties of apples as well as vegetables),  there is similar help available if needed. Only a phone call away and this type of senseless brutal execution of animals would have been avoided.


As for being the face of “United Farmer Veterans of Maine” this is not a pretty picture. No face looks good with black eyes and this is brutal. As for claiming to be a veteran, well I am not sure he will be going to any American Legion gatherings any time soon. There is nothing honorable in executing live stock (especially in the face of an imminent inspection) as an expedient or ethical course of action under any circumstances.


As to his running for House District 98 to represent Frankfort, Searsport, Swanville and Winterport; the jury may be out on that for a while. He may be concerned with what another jury might be considering in the future.


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