State prosecutors and animal rights activists are calling for a historic prison sentence to be handed out to four men accused of torturing pigs at a Murcia farm.
A Cartagena court is the venue for proceedings against the former El Escobar farm workers, four years after shocking video footage was leaked by a colleague showing them laughing as they stabbed, beat and killed sows.
The footage was sent to animal welfare organisation Animal Equality in 2012 by Marcos Verduga, who witnessed the torture and mistreatment daily.
The group’s international director Javier Moreno has described the case as “the cruellest thing we’ve ever seen.”
Posing for the camera, while flexing their biceps and drenched in blood, the video shows the men stabbing pigs with rusty swords, beating sows with iron bars, throwing piglets against a wall and carrying out other actions too graphic for EWN to publish.
Moreno has demanded a “historic and exemplary sentence” and his organisation has launched a petition, so far signed by more than 66,000 people, calling for harsher punishments for those convicted of animal cruelty.
The prosecution is requesting the maximum penalty under the law, which is one year in prison and disqualification from working with animals for three years.
Lower sentences are, however, usually suspended in Spain if under two years in length and involving a first time offender.
This means the men could walk free regardless of a guilty verdict.
That prospect is intolerable to Moreno and to the thousands of signatories demanding a change in the law.
They want the court to send a clear message that there are consequences for such mistreatment and to reflect the changing tide of public opinion.
There is some precedent for a harsher judgment: in October 2015 a Mallorcan court refused to suspend the sentence of a man given an eight-month term for beating his horse to death after it lost a race.
But just one month later, the court reversed its decision and allowed the man to walk free.