West Yorkshire named among worst wildlife abuse areas as RSPCA reveals scale of crime
West Yorkshire was among the five areas with the highest levels of wildlife abuse last year, news figures from the RSPCA have revealed.
The animal welfare charity said it had taken almost 10,000 calls nationally over the past five years from people reporting intentional harm being inflicted on wild creatures, with deer, swans and hedgehogs among the most commonly abused.
Its head of wildlife, Adam Grogan, said: "We say we’re a nation of animal-lovers and yet every year, we see wild animals in our wildlife centres and animal hospitals that have been badly injured or killed by being beaten, mutilated, poisoned, or shot for ‘fun’."
As part of its Cancel Out Cruelty campaign, the RSPCA has shared data setting out the scale of the abuse reported across a five-year period from 2016 to 2020.
The number of cruelty incidents relating to wild mammals totalled 4,383, with wild birds persecuted in even greater numbers, at 5,049.
According to the charity's analysis, deliberate cruelty to wildlife is at its highest during the summer months. Some 376 wild animals were reported to have been intentionally harmed in June, July and August last year.
West Yorkshire was also revealed to be the fifth worst area of wildlife abuse reports in 2020, with 30 incidents. It came behind Greater London at 101 incidents, Kent at 37, the West Midlands at 36 and Greater Manchester at 35.
Incidents reported on by the YEP last year included swans with five eggs being shot and killed in a Leeds lake and a bird being killed and fed to a dog in Leeds woodland.
Mr Grogan said: "Our data shows that reports of cruelty to wildlife surged over last summer. Police forces reported a rise in anti-social behaviour during that first lockdown, when pressures and frustrations may have led to more of this type of crime, leading to some seeking ‘entertainment’ through these sorts of barbaric incidents involving wildlife."
The RSPCA’s inspectors see first-hand the suffering inflicted by criminals on animals through wildlife crime such as airgun and crossbow shooting, badger baiting, dog fighting, illegal hunting with dogs including hare coursing and trapping birds.
They have dealt with some particularly distressing incidents in recent months, including a collared dove shot being shot with a crossbow in Greater Manchester, a hedgehog being stoned to death in Nottinghamshire and foxes being deliberately trapped and kept in bags before being let loose to be hunted by dogs in Kent.
Mr Grogan added: "There is no place for cruelty to animals in today’s society and we urge anyone who spots anything suspicious when out and about or sees anything online to report it."
Incidents can be reported via the RSPCA’s cruelty line on 0300 1234 999, Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or West Yorkshire Police on 101.
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