AN ANIMAL lover has been fined after attempting to liberate battery hens from a farm near Wimborne.

Mark Organ, 46, and seven others had hired a van and gathered cages and bags in order to free unhealthy or distressed birds late one night in January last year.

They were foiled by a man out walking with a powerful lamp as they approached a Witchampton farm.

A jury at Bournemouth Crown Court found Mr Organ guilty of conspiracy to steal, and on Thursday, June 17, he was ordered to pay £1,515.

Judge James Meston, QC, told Mr Organ: “It is clear you have a long-standing serious concern about the welfare of animals, and believe your self to be morally justified in stealing chickens.

“I do not suppose the verdict of the jury will alter your views.

“There was no evidence the farm was run unlawfully or improperly, and it was at that time running down.”

The targeted unit has since closed for economic reasons, he added.

Police easily traced Mr Organ, of Lancing, West Sussex, because he hired the van in his own name, and Judge Meston said he did not believe the group would have forced entry to a locked barn.

“I understand that in 2012 changes in the law will improve conditions for poultry,” he said.

“You thought your strong disapproval for battery hens was in the mainstream part of public opinion, and I accept that you were just going to get unhealthy birds that might not have been missed.”

Timothy Greene, defending, said: “This was not an offence committed for reasons of personal gain, but for beliefs sincerely held in relation to an issue my client feels strongly about, with others.”