Thirty abandoned cattle at a Worcestershire farm have been rescued by RSPCA inspectors after the animal charity stepped in to oversee their welfare.
The livestock had been left to fend for themselves at Emmadale Farm in Rowley Green Lane, Alvechurch, after their owners were jailed.
Lionel, David and Stephen Tonge were imprisoned in May for the non-payment of £100,000 of fines imposed for animal welfare breaches.
No organisation had come forward to take care of the animals, and dozens have had to be destroyed because of a lack of food, water and veterinary care.
About 90 animals at the farm have been put down, leaving 30 which were slowly starving to death. Some of animals had gone wild and attacked each other, resulting in the death of one cow.
Yesterday RSPCA inspectors along with the police visited the farm after the plight of the animals was highlighted.
The cattle were seized by the police and placed in the care of the RSPCA, although they remain the property of the Tonge family.
A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said: "Our officers are currently ensuring that their welfare needs are being met on the site.
"At the society's request, a veterinary surgeon has checked on the health of the cattle. None of them are in a suffering state and they do not require any special feed or care regime at present.
"From now on the animals will be visited and checked on a daily basis."
The spokeswoman said RSPCA inspectors would meet with officials from Worcestershire Trading Standards to discuss the matter and determine the best way to ensure the welfare of the animals.
She added: "We are investigating to see if any offences have been committed.
"Abandonment and neglect of animals are both offences, but until we know the specific details of what has happened it is difficult to comment."
The animals had been left in legal limbo because neither DEFRA vets, nor Worcestershire Country Council or the RSPCA are responsible for the creatures.
Local farmers said they did not want to become liable for them and they could not be sold because they did not have the identification documents certifying they are free from BSE.
Government vets who are monitoring the cows can only step in when any animal is suffering so badly that it has to be put down. The three owners of the farm were found guilty of breaching the Protection of Animals Act at a trial in 2003 and were fined more than £100,000.
They were jailed for 12 months each on May 25 for failing to pay the fine. They appointed others to look after the animals in their absence, but the arrangements fell apart.
Russell Griffin, spokesman for the National Farmers' Union in Worcestershire, said: "This is a tragedy for the animals involved and a tragedy for the farm as well. It is complete madness that animals can be left in this situation.
"You have to question what happened at the time the cows' owners were prosecuted and imprisoned.
"The people who are in prison are not NFU members and were banned from looking after cattle, but not banned from owning them.
"You can't help but think it would have made more sense to have been banned from owning cattle. That would have solved the problem."
Mr Griffin said he hoped the courts were mindful of such pitfalls in future. "I would hope this legal loophole is looked at."