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By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times

JOHANNESBURG — When animal inspectors arrived at a deserted South African farm this past weekend, they found stomach-churning neglect.

Dozens of animals — including pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, and geese — were dead or dying, abandoned without food or water.

The “farm of horrors,” as South African media called it, quickly morphed into a political scandal. The farm’s owner, Thandi Modise, is a prominent official in the governing African National Congress and chairwoman of the upper house of parliament, the National Council of Provinces.

“The suffering that the animals endured does not compare to the financial loss that I suffered,” Modise said in a statement Monday, stirring further controversy.

Modise does not live on the farm, outside Potchefstroom in South Africa’s North West Province, but has owned it for three years.

Farm animal neglect is common in South Africa, but not on this scale, according to animal welfare inspector Andries Venter.

Venter, a senior inspector for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told the Los Angeles Times that he counted 79 dead animals, including 58 pigs. Inspectors had to euthanize 117 others, most of them also pigs.

Venter said it was the worst case of farm animal cruelty he had seen in 20 years with the NSPCA.

He estimated that the animals had been abandoned for at least a week and perhaps two. There was no electricity on the farm and no working pumps.

“All the animals were without access to food or water. Everything was cut off,” he said. “I was very emotional. I was taken aback because of just the pure neglect, the suffering and pain these animals had to go through.”

Some of the surviving pigs were feeding off others that had perished, he said. The sheep and goats, which were confined in a barn, were in slightly better condition but extremely thin.

Ten sheep had to be put down, Venter said. His organization managed to save 30 sheep and goats, nine geese and 16 chickens. None of the pigs could be saved.

The NSPCA is preparing criminal charges related to animal cruelty. Owners, supervisors, and workers can all face charges in such cases, Venter said.

He said inspectors had been told that there were workers on the farm until two weeks ago. “Even though we have made requests, we have not been provided with the names of the individuals. In that case, the owner will be held responsible,” he said.

Modise’s statement Monday said that the workers and a supervisor had walked off the job without telling her. She said she usually visits the farm every two weeks but learned about the crisis from the NSPCA after a visit by its inspectors.

AFP Photo/Scott Olson

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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The baseless claim that the FBI may have planted evidence while carrying out a court-approved search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence on Monday has surged through right-wing media, as the former president’s allies continue their effort to turn their audiences against the probe and shield Trump from accountability.

The FBI searched the premises after obtaining a warrant from a federal magistrate judge and “removed a number of boxes of documents” as part of a federal investigation into whether Trump had illegally “taken a trove of material with him to his home at Mar-a-Lago when he left the White House that included sensitive documents – and then, in the Justice Department’s view, had failed to fully comply with requests that he return the disputed material,” the New York Times reported. Politico concluded after consulting with legal experts on the handling of classified documents that “it’s highly unlikely the DOJ would have pursued – and a judge would have granted – such a politically explosive search warrant without extraordinary evidence.”

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