In the beginning of June last year a sheep farmer and his wife heard a curious bleating sound from one of the farm's pastures. When they went to investigate they were shocked to find a man engaged in sexual conduct with one of the ewes.
“This is an unusual case. Earlier it would have been classified as bestiality but nowadays it is seen as cruelty to animals,” Tomas Tell of the police told daily Göteborgsposten (GP).
The witness reports are in themselves not enough to convict the man of cruelty to animals.
Therefore a specialist veterinary surgeon has been called in from the Swedish Board of Agriculture (Jordbruksverket) as an expert witness.
“Because there were no visible injuries the prosecutor must be able to prove that the ewe has suffered from the unpleasant event,” Tell told GP.
At the trial the specialist will be heard on the subject of sheep physiology and behaviour. But according to GP, the main issue will be whether the ewe has suffered any lasting distress due to sexual abuse or not.
The farmers will have to testify as to what they witnessed the man do with their grazing livestock and the police officer that apprehended the culprit will also be heard during the trial.
Sex crimes against animals have been reported to be on the rise in Sweden earlier this year with an increase in reported cases of sexual mutilation of horses and other livestock.
The man denies the charges, despite the witnesses' claim to have caught him in the act. If found guilty he could be sentenced to anything from a fine to two years in prison.