Gamekeepers – friends of wildlife (my arse!!!) Part 235

Walker left horrified after stumbling upon heap of dead animals in wood near Baldock

26 May 2015
James Scott

A walker took a photo of a heap of dead animals within yards of a public footpath, in Spital Wood,which is situated between Baldock and Wallington.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, says he made the discovery while walking past privately-owned land in Spital Wood – situated between Baldock and Wallington – on Friday afternoon.

He said: “When I stumbled on this horror, I counted deer, rabbits, hares, squirrels, foxes, stoats, weasels, crows, magpies and jays.

“Who knows what’s beneath the top layers. Could there be badgers, red kites or buzzards? Who knows? Clearly whoever trapped, snared, poisoned, and shot these wild creatures knows no compassion.

“What could be sacred to this monster? Well I’ll tell you. Pheasants and partridges. This mess is sitting next to pheasant pens, and is approached through a minefield of wire snares.

“And fen traps that snap the backs of any small four-legged animal that wander onto them.

“Who is responsible? We’ll try and name and shame the lowlife gamekeeper, but it’s the landowners and in the bigger picture the shooting industry that employs men to eliminate anything that might be perceived as a threat to their precious birds, that will be shot for recreation in the winter.

“Is that obscene, or am I going mad? Another, perhaps the only, reason why people hunt foxes with dogs?”

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Gamekeepers – friends of wildlife (my arse!!!)

Sir Ian Botham goes into bat against bird charity over saving the hen harrier
May 25, 2015

It is all happening a long way from the Westcountry, but the row over hen harriers has relevance for conservation everywhere. Philip Bowern reports

The hen harrier is one of the most treasured and threatened birds in Britain. And after adult birds abandoned two nests in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, on moorland used for grouse shooting, there was outrage from conservationists, some of whom pointed the finger at shooting interests.

Sir Ian Botham, the former Somerset and England cricketer – a country lover and passionate defender of shooting sports – has joined the debate, and claimed that gamekeepers, rather than posing a threat to the iconic birds of prey, offer the best hope of their long-term survival.

“The RSPB are deckchair conservationists with binoculars who sit and watch failing nests,” he said. “They campaign, they complain, they blame – but they are rubbish at conservation. Year after year the RSPB fails to live up to its name and protect birds. If you want to protect birds from predators you need gamekeepers not the RSPB.”

The argument, answered equally robustly by the RSPB’s director of conservation Martin Harper, goes to the heart of the debate around the best ways to conserve threatened birds of prey.

Sir Ian is offering a £10,000 reward to anyone prepared to rescue abandoned hen harrier eggs, hatch them out, rear the chicks and release them back into the wild. Such an option can’t help the two nests recently abandoned – their eggs will have gone cold and any chicks will be dead. But, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) argues, it could help other threatened hen harriers.

The pro-shooting GWCT says that between 1973-77 in North America, conservationists managed to produce more than 300 peregrines from eggs in this way. By 1979 more than 30 species of raptor, from falcons to large vultures, had been raised in captivity.

It goes on report that in 1994 French conservationists started collecting Montagu’s harrier eggs from nests located in arable fields just before harvest, hatching out the chicks and reintroducing them into the wild. The GWCT says, in a recent blog: “The details, which were published in 2000, strongly suggest there are no grounds for concern over behavioural issues after the fledged chicks were released back into the wild.”

Any such action would have to be authorised by Natural England because it is an offence to interfere with the nest of a hen harrier and a licence would have to be granted. Those removing the eggs would also have to move fast, taking the eggs from a nest that had been clearly abandoned before they cooled and getting them to an incubator.

The GWCT says: “Remote cameras continually monitor each nest so it should be possible to asses when a male is late retuning to the nest. As soon as the female leaves the nest observers could move quickly, with portable incubator boxes and switch the eggs with ‘dummies’. If the adults were to return the real eggs could be replaced. Either way the eggs are not lost.”

The Trust, which supports shooting interests, believes such a plan to save the remaining hen harriers of the northern moors should be put in place urgently.

It goes on “One report suggests 70% of hen harrier nesting attempts failed on grouse moors due to adults going missing. Having a contingency plan in place would ensure the eggs hatch and the progeny are returned to the wild. With the hen harrier population so low, it appears odd to repeatedly allow clutches of 5-8 eggs to fail.”

Sir Ian Botham wants to put in place measures to save further hen harrier losses. The RSPB, however, wants to know what happened to the adult birds which have abandoned the latest two nests. The implication is that gamekeepers are to blame because hen harriers predate on grouse chicks and grouse shooting is what sustains the moorland as a commercial prospect.

Martin Harper, RSPB director of conservation recently acknowledged the value of lowland pheasant shoots for providing good habitat for other species, including song birds. In this instance, however, he is less sympathetic to the shooting interests.

“While the RSPB is intent on bringing hen harriers back from the brink of extinction, we’re not yet able to bring them back from the dead – which is what Ian Botham and the British grouse shooting industry, which is funding this campaign, appear to be suggesting by proposing the transfer of already-dead, abandoned eggs into incubators,” he writes.

“While we do not know what has happened to these birds, the circumstances in which they disappeared is highly suspicious and history tells us that the most likely reason is illegal persecution, following a pattern of bird of prey disappearances on intensively managed grouse moors. This is why the police are investigating.

“The cause of hen harriers’ continued rarity and the solution to tackle this is obvious. The RSPB will continue to focus on ending illegal persecution, rather than Ian Botham’s dubiously legal nest-interference scheme based on half-truths and prejudices.”

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Thug is spared jail after badger killing in Unstone – Derbyshire Times

Wednesday 20 May 2015

A thug who was found guilty of killing a badger and interfering with a badger sett in Unstone has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Chesterfield magistrates’ court heard on Monday, May 18, during sentencing how Connor Podmore, 20, of Park Drive, Thrybergh, Rotherham, had been involved with three others who were previously jailed for their part in killing the badger at land near St John’s Road, Unstone.

Podmore was found guilty during a previous trial and has been sentenced to a 12 week prison sentence suspended for 12 months with a curfew and he must pay an £80 victim surcharge and £920.

He was also given a ten year ban from having a dog after a dog involved in the offence has been ordered to be rehomed.

The three other offenders Antonio Miguel Alonso-Brown and Liam and Nathan Swift were each previously sentenced to twelve weeks in jail for killing a badger after the RSPCA and forensic experts matched DNA from the dead animal to one of the culprit’s bloodied clothes. They pleaded guilty to unlawfully killing the badger.

Alonso-Brown and Liam and Nathan Swift were also banned from keeping dogs for life during a previous court hearing in February.

This case broke new ground as it is the first time the badger DNA profiling technique had been used to match a dead animal to its killers.

The RSPCA stated that Alonso-Brown, 22, of Shelley Drive, Herringthorpe, Rotherham, and Nathan Swift, 20, of Hague Avenue, Rawmarsh, Rotherham, were caught by police as they attempted to flee the crime scene in June, last year. Liam Swift, 22, also of Hague Avenue, was found hiding in a field, according to the RSPCA.

RSPCA Chief Inspector Ian Briggs said the case demonstrated how modern forensics can be applied to animal cases to catch those who might previously have evaded justice.
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Gamekeeper used illegal gin trap

Agonising death of bird of prey in long-banned trap

Wednesday 20 May 2015

A GAMEKEEPER on one of Scotland’s greatest sporting estates caught a bird of prey in a cruel trap outlawed in the UK for more than half a century, a court was told yesterday.

James O’Reilly set a gin trap near a forest ride on the family-owned 5000-acre Cardross estate near Flanders Moss, Stirlingshire.

The shooting part of the estate was described in court as leased on debenture and advertised as of the best shoots in Scotland, with “opportunities for driven grouse, partridge and deer shooting”. O’Reilly, 50, baited the trap by leaving a deer carcass beside it, where goshawks, red kites and white-tailed eagles visited.

The trap caught a buzzard, a bird that has only become re-
established as a breeding species in the central Lowlands in the last 25 years.

Stirling Sheriff Court was told the “otherwise healthy bird” would have “suffered tremendously” before it was eventually found by a dog walker and handed to the Scottish SPCA. Despite efforts to save it, the buzzard had to be humanely destroyed days later.

Shona McJannet, prosecuting, said there had also been a potential to trap “other, very iconic species”. She said: “The trap used was one that would never have been legal, and there is evidence that it had not been checked for a period of 24 to 48 hours.”

Ms McJannet, the Crown Office’s specialist wildlife prosecutor, said O’Reilly’s job as keeper on the estate involved maximising the number of birds available for shooting by managing their habitat and controlling predators such as crows, stoats, weasels and foxes.

She said: “Historically, gamekeepers legitimately controlled birds of prey but this practice became wholly illegal in 1954.”

Ms McJannet said the offence came to light in March 2013 when a local man walking his dog found the bird caught by the leg in the gin trap.

She said: “There appeared to have been considerable blood loss. The buzzard was flapping about, trapped by the leg.

“The man opened the jaws of the trap and stood back, thinking the buzzard would fly off, but it moved very little, and was apparently unable to fly.”

He took the bird home and called the Scottish SPCA, whose officers took it to a rescue centre.

Police went to the scene the next day and found the small, factory-made gin trap of a kind not sold in the UK, its jaws controlled by two strong springs.

The court heard that O’Reilly, now of Stronachlacher in the Trossachs, was no longer employed on the estate. He pleaded guilty to illegal trapping and improper use of snares.

Sheriff Peter Anderson ordered O’Reilly to carry out 240 hours unpaid work and warned he could have been jailed.

He said: “It may only have been a buzzard, it may only have been a fox, but these are very serious animal welfare issues. As a gamekeeper, you are given the right to carry out actions that cause animals real suffering.

“You are given that right under strict conditions – the kinds of traps that you can use and the methods you can use, and the steps to ensure that suffering is kept to a limit.”

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Porthmadog men jailed for ‘barbaric’ torture of deer
19 May 2015

Sergeant Rob Taylor of North Wales Police’s rural crime team said he felt physically sick after watching ‘horrific’ footage of the attack

A “horrific” video of two men torturing and killing a young deer left a police officer feeling physically sick, he said as the pair were jailed for the sickening attack.

Graphic images and mobile phone footage of the act were shown to magistrates today at Caernarfon, where both men were locked up for eight weeks.

Toby Humphreys, 22, was accused of holding down the animal and strangling it with his hands as the roe deer kicked its legs, trying to escape.

But prosecutor Mel Hughes said the animal had been bitten by a dog before 19-year-old Jac Parry Roberts is seen on the recording punching it hard in the face.

Mr Hughes said Humphreys stood on the deer’s neck and a female voice asked: “What’s that sh*t coming out of it?”

Roberts was accused of slitting the animal’s throat with a knife.

“The deer appears to be alive and conscious throughout,” said the prosecutor.

At least three other people were involved in the horror, one holding a lamp and another filming the scene.

Humphreys and Roberts, both of Pensyflog, Porthmadog, pleaded guilty to killing a deer at night on August 17 in Gwynedd.

The prosecutor said the cruelty came to light in December when police searching for drugs at a Porthmadog property had seized mobile phones and examined them.

Magistrates’ chairman Peter Lunt-Williams said the offence was “barbaric”.

The maximum sentence was three months custody.

Carys Parry, defending, said Humphreys was hunting rabbits when the dog caught the deer.

A probation officer added that he had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and was deemed unfit for work by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Deborah Davies, solicitor for unemployed Roberts, said he was under the care of the mental health team. The probation officer said he was a drug user and spent £20 a day on cannabis.

After the two were sentenced, Sergeant Rob Taylor of North Wales Police’s rural crime team said the unpleasant case was the conclusion of a “disturbing” investigation.

He said: “This was an extreme and disturbing crime. and thankfully these type of offences are rare.

“Watching the actual video has made me feel sick. I’m appalled by the behaviour of these two individuals, which was cruel and very unpleasant.

“The North Wales Police rural crime team is extremely proactive and will pursue offenders and put them before our courts.”

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Front page of the Independent

Hunting ban ‘set to be repealed within 12 months’ with early Commons vote expected

Exclusive: Cameron is under pressure from Tory MPs to honour their election manifesto pledge to hold a free Commons vote on the ban

Andrew Grice
Friday, 15 May 2015

Supporters of hunting with dogs are confident of overturning the ban imposed 10 years ago, claiming that a majority of MPs in the new House of Commons will vote to lift it.

David Cameron is under mounting pressure from Conservative MPs to honour swiftly the party’s election manifesto pledge to hold a free Commons vote on the ban. The pro-hunting lobby, which has analysed the views of the MPs elected this month, believes it has achieved the “magic number” of 286 votes it needs to win. The figure is less than half of the 650-member House because the Scottish National Party has said its 56 MPs will not take part.

The Countryside Alliance calculates that only about 12 of the 330 Conservative MPs will vote to keep the ban imposed by the Blair Government. However, the rival League Against Cruel Sports is also lobbying MPs and is confident that more than 12 Tories will vote to maintain the ban. It believes it can win the critical vote, which could be very close. It accused the Countryside Alliance of trying to bounce Tory MPs into believing a decision to repeal the Hunting Act 2004 is inevitable, when it is not.

The forthcoming vote is unlikely to be mentioned in the Queen’s Speech on May 27, as that might divert attention from Mr Cameron’s drive to lead a “one nation” government and end the Tories’ image as the “party of the rich.” But the Speech traditionally says that “other measures” will follow later in the parliamentary year and Tory MPs are hopeful that there will be a vote in the next 12 months.

Owen Paterson, the Conservative former Environment Secretary, said: “The hunting ban is bad legislation, bad for animal welfare and bad for the liberty of people in the countryside. A repeal of this law is a clear manifesto commitment and I am confident we will see it in the Queen’s Speech on May 27.”

Simon Hart, a Tory MP and former chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: “We need to get on with this and I am sure the Government will want to resolve the matter quickly and efficiently. The commitment to a vote on repeal has been in the manifesto since 2005 and we now have the opportunity to deliver that and get rid of a law that has been a running sore in the countryside for over 10 years.”

He added: “The vast majority of my colleagues understand that this whole debate was never really about hunting or animal welfare, but about Labour MPs having a go at what they thought was an easy Conservative target. The recent election result has shown once and for all that Labour’s obsession with fighting a class war has rendered them unelectable, so it is only right that we remove laws based on this prejudice from the statute book." Meet the new Cabinet appointments in David Cameron’s Tory government

Sir Barney White-Spunner, executive chairman of the Countryside Alliance, said: “We are looking forward to the Government delivering its manifesto commitment to a vote on repeal that we think will be won. The Hunting Act has been a farce from the start and even Tony Blair has admitted that it was a mistake. The new Parliament has an opportunity to right a wrong that was done 10 years ago and we are confident that MPs will take it”.

Opponents of hunting may appeal to the SNP to take part in the vote, which could tip the balance in their favour. But Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, has said the party’s MPs will vote on matters affecting England only if there are financial implications for Scotland. She has cited the Hunting Act as a no-go area because hunting was banned in Scotland two years earlier than in England.

Chris Pitt, deputy director of campaigns for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Given the other priorities facing the country at the moment, the public will not stand for the Government bringing forward a vote to bring back hunting so early on in this parliament.

“A one nation Conservative government should listen to the public and their own supporters who are overwhelmingly opposed to bringing back fox hunting, stag hunting and hare coursing. The Hunting Act is supported by 80 per cent of the British public and almost 70 per cent of Conservative supporters. Increasing numbers of Conservative MPs are recognising this and will vote against repeal, so we are confident that if a vote is called it will reflect the will of the British people and uphold the Hunting Act.”

Mr Pitt added: “Repeal of the Hunting Act would be a massive backwards step for animal welfare and we cannot accept the cruelty that it would legalise. We will be working with all the parties, including Conservative MPs who are anti-hunting, to ensure this vital legislation stays on the statute books.”
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Police investigate deer deaths in Dorset

Nine deer found dead in woodland may have been victims of hunting with dogs or illegal poaching

Friday 15 May 2015

Nine deer found dead in Dorset woodland may have been the victims of hunting with dogs or illegal poaching, police have said.

Seven carcasses were found at the bottom of Randalls Hill, Lytchett Minster, and two on a bridle path near Upton in the last week of April. All nine had dog bites on their rears, their insides removed and their throats cut.

Sgt Jane Mooney said: “I am appealing to members of the public to come forward if they have any information regarding these killings. These cruel wildlife attacks appear to have been carried out for fun as there are no signs of butchering.

“I would also like to appeal to local walkers and dog owners who might be out and about in rural areas to keep their eyes and ears open and report any suspicious behaviour. All calls will be treated in strict confidence.”

Insp Steve Marsh, wildlife coordinator at the force, said: “We have noticed an increase in this kind of wildlife crime in our rural areas. Deer are being slaughtered by dogs as part of an illegal sport or poached for their meat.

“I would like to reassure the public that, together with partner agencies, we are taking these crimes extremely seriously and will prosecute offenders accordingly. We currently have robust patrols in targeted areas and can only ask that the public remain vigilant to such crimes and come forward with any information.”

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Please sign these two petitions against hunting

Keep the Ban on Fox Hunting –

David Cameron: For Foxes’ Sake: Don’t Repeal The Fox Hunting Act! –

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Fox fight: comedians drive online opposition to hunting vote

British comedians are trying to push fox hunting up the list of Twitter trends

Less than a week after Conservative Party won a majority in the UK general election, animal rights activists – with prominent comedians and entertainers as their allies – are organising online to fight an effort to legalise hunting with dogs.

Fox hunting was not really an issue during the general election campaign. It barely registered on lists of voter concerns, and didn’t come up in debates. But in their manifesto, the Conservatives pledged a free vote for MPs on repealing the decade-old law that banned hunting with dogs, and the evening after the election the Conservative Health Minister Jeremy Hunt confirmed to the BBC’s Newsnight that the vote would go ahead.

That galvanised hunting opponents online, who among other things started tweeting pictures of cute and cuddly foxes. Since the election results came through more than 58,000 tweets in the UK have mentioned the term "fox hunting" – compared to just 4,000 in the week before the election.

Influential animal rights charities such as the RSPCA, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the League against Cruel Sports have traditionally led the anti-hunting charge in the UK, but on social media it’s British comedians and celebrities who seem to be making the most impact.

"The most powerful man in Britain wants the freedom to hunt this animal on horseback and watch dogs rip it to pieces" tweeted comedian and vocal animal rights campaigner Ricky Gervais alongside a video of a playful fox. The Office star has more than 8 million Twitter followers, and since Thursday his feed has been dotted with pictures of fox cubs. His messages were retweeted by other celebrity conservationists such as Queen guitarist Brian May and documentary maker Bill Oddie.
Ricky Gervais’s comments were turned into memes shared by animal rights activists

Gervais has also re-tweeted links to a petition on which has attracted more than 240,000 signatures – more than other post-election UK political petitions supporting, for example, a referendum on the Conservative plan to repeal the Human Rights Act and another calling for reform of the voting system.

Another famous comedian, Jack Whitehall, has also been driving the trend. "Fox hunting should only be considered a ‘sport’ if they do it both ways round. I.e. A pack of foxes get to chase a posh guy with a trumpet" he tweeted.

Opponents of the last government’s controversial badger cull to prevent the spread of tuberculosis amongst cattle have also helped drive Gervais’s message onto Facebook. Anti-badger cull communities on the platform have started sharing celebrity quotes.

But some have gone much further, into the realms of trolling. They have posted updates which boast of their targeting of fox hunting supporters individually, as well as people involved in last year’s badger cull. "A source tells us this family are involved in badger killing," reads one post which encouraged activists to post negative reviews of the family’s business.
This 1997 quote from Take That’s Mark Owen has been shared more than 300 times

However not everyone on social media is convinced of the apparent urgency to pressure MPs on the issue. On Reddit, many were quick to point out that the Conservative Party were simply following through on a campaign promise in a democratic process. Others highlighted websites which listed a number of Conservative MPs who don’t support removing the ban – which will make a difference given that MPs will be allowed to vote with their conscience on the issue, rather than sticking to a party line.

A Conservative Party spokesperson told BBC Trending that the party was still committed to its manifesto promise. The pro-hunting Countryside Alliance is not yet campaigning on the issue, saying that until the government had given a firm commitment in the Queen’s Speech later this month, its members are focusing on other campaigns.

"The recent general election has shown the dangers of mistaking social media sentiment for a true representation of public opinion" an Alliance spokeswoman said. "It is very easy to favourite a celebrity tweet but I wonder if 400,000 of these keyboard warriors would rally themselves to march, as the Countryside Alliance did in support of hunting in 2002. You can be sure that once a concrete piece of legislation has been brought forward hunting supporters will be ready and willing to act."

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Dog owner who forced his pets into horrific underground fights with badgers is jailed

11 May 2015
By Euan Stretch

Three Patterdale terriers owned by Steve Alston, 49, had their noses and jaws ripped apart after being sent down badger setts and filmed.

A man who used dogs to illegally bait badgers and foxes has been jailed for 160 days after a court heard how the animals suffered horrific injuries.

Three Patterdale terriers owned by Steve Alston, 49, had their noses and jaws ripped apart after being sent down badger setts and filmed as they fought with the powerful animals.

The dogs’ ordeal only came to light when police visited Alston’s home in Littlebourne, near Canterbury, Kent, in November 2013 because his wife’s mobile phone malfunctioned and repeatedly dialled 999.

Officers found three dogs with wounded snouts and jaws.

Police passed the case to the RSPCA and when they searched his house they found pictures and a treadmill..

Magistrates heard the injuries were consistent with being bitten by a badger or a fox.

Alston admitted providing dogs for badger and fox baiting and failing to provide proper veterinary treatment for the injured terriers at hearing last month.

He has now been jailed for 160 days and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs by a judge at Folkestone magistrates court in Kent.

He was also banned from keeping animals for life.

Inspector Cliff Harrison, from the RSPCA’s special operations unit, said : “Using terriers to hunt and fight wild animals is a sickening form of deliberate and premeditated animal cruelty.

“It isn’t just the animals targeted that suffer sickening injuries, but also the dogs used in this barbaric activity.

“These injured dogs will have been put underground in the likes of badger setts and fox earths, where they would have endured the sort of encounters that left both animals with huge trauma wounds.

“No animal deserves to be used and treated in this way. I am pleased that the court clearly took a similarly strong view and has prevented the defendant from owning a dog ever again.”

The court heard how when police raided Alston’s home they found many photos of injured dogs along with a number of diaries in which Alston described in detail multiple fights between dogs and foxes and other wild mammals over several decades.

Eight terrier type dogs, including adults and juveniles, were seized by police and later signed over to the RSPCA.

Seven of the eight dogs seized as part of the investigation have now successfully been rehomed by the RSPCA.

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