AN ANIMAL protection group has warned a “brutal” banned “blood sport” is on the rise after a badger was found slaughtered in a field.
The animal had been cornered by a group of cruel “thugs” in an open field at Maltby before being savaged by dogs, South Yorkshire Badger Group said.
The activity is known as “lamping” and incidents increase at this time of year, when crops have been harvested and large fields are left bare and without cover for animals.
The group said it was made aware of up to five reports of lamping a month in Rotherham, adding that badger baiting, where animals are drawn from their setts and attacked by dogs, was also a major issue.
News of the wildlife crime comes weeks after East Herringthorpe farmer Helen Smith said her cattle were being tormented or attacked by intruders and another farm worker reported incidents of foxes and deer being shot.
The Badger Group’s Rotherham representative, Diane Hershaw, was called to the incident on Saturday, September 7 by South Yorkshire Police’s wildlife crime unit.
Describing the scene, Ms Hershaw said: “It was very sad — the animal had been subjected to a horrific experience and clearly died a terrible death.
“There’s no mercy from these people and basically, they’re just thugs and not the kind of people you want living near to you.”
The field had been harvested, making lamping easy and quad bike marks suggested the vehicle used had been circling the badger, said Ms Hershaw, who said the gangs involved used 4x4s and quad bikes.
High-powered lamps are shone across open fields and foxes, badgers, rabbits and deer are attacked with dogs after being dazzled in the beams.
Mrs Hershaw (55), of Brinsworth, added: “If it’s a badger, which can be quite strong, the men, who come in closer, might intervene and inflict more injury on them with spades or hammers — it’s very brutal.
“Sometimes they will nail an animal to the ground or they enjoy seeing the animal trying to run away being pursued by a number of dogs. They have no chance of getting out alive — and it’s all just for the offenders’ entertainment.”
Dead bodies are often dumped in the road to make it look like animals have been hit by a vehicle.
Ms Hershaw said some farmers had tried to stop offenders getting onto their land by putting breeze blocks around their boundaries.
The charity is urging the public to help stamp out wildlife crime and report any suspicious behaviour, which could include spotting groups of men with dogs that look injured.
Lurcher and pit-bull cross-breeds are bred for their strength and speed to be used in the illegal hunting, said Ms Hershaw, who added: “People think it doesn’t happen these days because it is an old blood sport that was banned many years ago.
“We believe it’s getting worse because of the internet, with people posting and passing information on.”
A Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust spokeswoman urged anyone with information about cruelty to badgers or disturbance to their setts to contact police and the badger group.
You can visit www.wildsheffield.com/wildlifecrime for more information and call the South Yorkshire Badger Group helpline on 07722 590184.