This prosecution will be a warning to anyone involved in badger baiting activity. If caught, the RSPCA will act, and will seek justice for the animals involved. Put simply, there is no room for this disgusting activity.
The master of the Dwyryd Hunt in North Wales was today imprisoned for 22 weeks for the "barbaric" treatment of a badger in what the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) called a "landmark case".
David William Thomas, 51, of Cwm Bowydd Farm, Blaenau Ffestiniog, in North Wales, will remain under supervision for a year, was ordered to pay costs of £5,000, and disqualified from keeping dogs for an eight-year period. He had been a huntsman for 32 years, the court heard.
A second man, 25-year-old Jordan Houlston of Alexandra Road, Llandudno, imprisoned for 20 weeks, placed under supervision for one year and ordered to pay £600 in costs. He was disqualified from keeping all dogs for eight years.
Video surveillance footage showing "a badger was deliberately attacked by a pack of dogs" filmed by the RSPCA on 5 February 2017 was presented at Llandudno Magistrates’ Court. Images of fake setts - used to hold a badger for baiting purposes - and animal skulls were also shown to the court.
Chief inspector Ian Briggs, from the RSPCA’s special operations unit, said: “This was a major and landmark investigation, in which the RSPCA caught a number of individuals red-handed in the act of using their dogs to barbarically fight with a badger. Footage of this nature is extremely rare, but lays bare the sickening nature of this cruel and gruesome activity.
“Badger baiting has been illegal for over 180 years, and it is sickening to find people still seeking to spend their time inflicting pain, suffering and misery on animals in this way. This was coordinated and carefully planned cruelty, involving dogs, badgers and foxes.
He added: “Sadly, badger digging remains a serious problem in our countryside. The RSPCA will not relent in bringing those involved in this cruel activity to justice, as demonstrated with this investigation, for which we’d like to thank North Wales Police for their support.
“This prosecution will be a warning to anyone involved in badger baiting activity. If caught, the RSPCA will act, and will seek justice for the animals involved. Put simply, there is no room for this disgusting activity.”
Eduardo Gonçalves, the chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Sadly it comes as no surprise that a huntsman has been engaged in other horrific practices involving cruelty to animals.
"David Thomas, who founded the Dwyryd hunt in 1994, and as both master and huntsman is effectively the entire hunt staff, should step down, the hunt itself should be disbanded, and the hounds relocated elsewhere. He shouldn’t be allowed any more opportunities to terrorise and kill wildlife.
"We have long suspected that the people behind hunts are involved in a range of animal welfare abuses involving the killing of animals for fun and this case illustrates the terrible savagery a small but determined minority of people are happy to inflict in the name of ‘sport’."
Police and inspectors from the RSPCA seized 23 dogs days after the badger bating had taken place. They also found two foxes in cages, "terrified and suffering unnecessarily". Eight more dogs were rescued from Houlston’s home.
The two imprisoned men Houlston and Thomas had been found guilty of a number of offences following a trial at Llandudno Magistrates’ Court, which concluded on Tuesday 16 January. Two others were charged under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. He tweets at @EcoMontague.