*Warning – upsetting image included*
New RSPCA data has revealed it received reports of more than 2200 incidents of cruelty to wildlife in 2020, with numbers spiking in May.
From hunting and fighting to beating and mutilation, incidents of ‘illegal activity’ and ‘intentional harm’ to wild animals started rising at the start of the lockdown in March (194) and April (241) this year, peaking in May (381).
The charity is concerned that as the nation goes into lockdown again and everything shuts down, some may turn to this barbaric behaviour for ‘entertainment’ and incidents may rise.
RSPCA National Wildlife Co-ordinator Geoff Edmond said: “Our data shows that reports of cruelty to wildlife surged during the first lockdown. We fear a similar peak could happen all over again during this second lockdown, as some people again look for savage ways to pass the time. Our inspectors see first-hand the suffering inflicted by criminals on animals through wildlife crime such as badger baiting, dog fighting, hare coursing and trapping birds.
“We have seen some particularly distressing incidents in recent months, such as a magpie shot with a crossbow and two hedgehogs doused in fuel and burned alive. Police forces have reported a rise in anti-social behaviour during the first lockdown, when pressures and frustrations led to more of this type of crime, and we fear it may lead to some seeking ‘entertainment’ through these sorts of barbaric incidents involving wildlife. There is no place for cruelty to animals in today’s society and we urge anyone who spots anything suspicious when out on their daily exercise or sees anything online to report it to the RSPCA’s cruelty line or their local police force.”
The RSPCA’s inspectorate sadly has to deal with hundreds of incidents involving cruelty to wildlife. Just days ago in Wales, a man was sentenced to prison for extreme cruelty to a hedgehog. The man had cut off the little animal’s legs, had burned it and covered its head and eyes with molten candle wax.
Only last month (27 October), the RSPCA was called out to a badger in Nantwich, Cheshire that had suffered some very severe wounds most likely from an illegal badger-baiting attack. And in September, a swan which had been shot in the neck with an arrow was successfully operated on by RSPCA vets.
The RSPCA’s Specialist Operations Unit works to uncover the culprits of these crimes and bring them to justice.
Last year, out of a total of 1431 convictions, we secured 25 under the Protection of Badgers Act, 17 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, six under the Hunting Act and three under the Deer Act and ten convictions relating to wild bird