EXCLUSIVE INVESTIGATION: Essex travellers post 'sick' blood sport kills on Facebook - WARNIN
SICK: Man holds up dead fox and the dog that may have killed it
TRAVELLERS have posted "sick and chilling" images of kills from illegal blood sports on Facebook, sometimes with young children holding the bodies.
Mutilated bodies of hares and foxes that have been killed by dogs can be seen on public Facebook accounts with adults and children pictured smiling with their kills.
The animals appear to have been caught and killed by dogs which are shown being specifically trained to become aggressive.
There are also pictures of large cock fighting birds seen facing each other as if an illegal bout is about to start.
GRIM: Two hares apparently killed during a nocturnal hare coursing event
Hare coursing, which involves dogs being set loose to run down and catch hares in open fields, and cock fighting are both illegal in the UK and also often involve illegal betting.
Fox hunting with dogs has been illegal here since 2005.
In one video filmed by spotlight at night, a group of men are seen sending two dogs into what appears to be a fox set.
Separate still images posted with the video show two men proudly holding up a different dog each and a dead fox.
Other videos show two men encouraging a dog to bite the arm of one of them that is wrapped in carpet, while it is hit with a stick to make it more aggressive.
There are pictures that show one of the men posing with a dog and a dead hare.
DOG TRAINING THURROCK STYLE: Man with roll of carpet and dog in park
YOUNG BLOOD: Children pose with a dead hare and one of the dogs
Children posing with dogs and dead hares can also be seen plus images of firearms.
One is captioned: "My Boi's<sic> first kill. Well done."
Baroness Smith of Basildon, who has long campaigned against animal cruelty, said: "It’s hard to imagine why anyone could possibly think it was appropriate to boast about killing animals to the extent of posing with the mauled carcasses – and with children.
"Killing for fun can never be right – these photos are gruesome and grotesque. “
She was particularly concerned about the killing of hares, the population of which has been in a "state of serious decline."
TOP: A man appears to prepare two large cocks to start a fight and (above) a large bird
Nick Weston, Head of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “These sickening and chilling images posted on social media show that we all need to be vigilant in tackling animal cruelty.
“It’s saddening that anyone, let alone youngsters, are involved in these appalling activities but posting images online may well lead to them being exposed and facing prosecution.
“We would urge the public to contact the League’s Animal Crimewatch service if they have any information on animal cruelty, or spot something disturbing online – our investigators, many former police officers, will work with the relevant authorities, to help bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.”
CRUEL: Another man holds a dead fox and the dog that may have killed it
RSPCA SOU Chief Inspector Will Mitchell said: "We are getting more and more reports of people hunting animals with dogs. What's not clear is whether this is something that is sickeningly increasingly in popularity or is becoming more visible due to social media and technology and therefore is more likely to be reported to us.
"Badger persecution and hunting with dogs is, sadly, something which we are seeing more of. We've dealt with numerous cases where groups of men spend their evenings going out across countryside and farmland with their dogs to track down and kill badgers, foxes, deer and anything else that may get in their way. This is gratuitous killing for fun.
BURROW: A man looks down a fox hole before sending the dogs in
The pictures have been posted by travellers in Thurrock, Essex, but it is not clear exactly when or where the animals were killed.
East Anglia and other rural agricultural areas have a big problem with hare coursing which involves people trespassing on their land and often causing damage with 4x4 vehicles used.
FIREARM: A gun apparently used on some of the hunts
Essex Police has a Essex Police Gypsy, Traveller & Rural Engagement Team that tweeted last month an image of three men in a silver off-road vehicle asking people to call 999 if they saw them.
The team tweeted: "This and another silver vehicle are causing issues on and off the roads between M11 at Newport and Saffron Walden.
"They are hare coursing and driving the fields, any sightings please report on 999 - as we have four units out looking for both vehicles/occupants."
An Essex Police spokeswoman said: "Our Rural Policing Team spend a lot of time working with farmers and members of the rural community, as well as agencies like the RSPCA, to disrupt hare coursing and related criminal activity.
"Hare coursers are criminals and they can be violent, so please don’t approach them. Take down number plate details and any other information and call us on 999 if an incident is in progress.
"Organised crime, threats of violence, weapons and damage to property are the markers of hare coursing and similar offences, as such it’s something we take incredibly seriously. With so much of Essex being rural, we need to make our countryside a no-go area for these criminals."
Last month Wiltshire Police also stopped a large hare coursing event in the Salisbury Plain area.
TOP: Wiltshire Police move in on hare coursers and (bottom) a dog seized
Nine men were reported and face court summonses for hunting act offences.
Some have come from as far as South Wales to take part
A Wiltshire Police spokesman said: "Officers also seized two vehicles, a number of phones and ten lurcher type dogs.
"We are now carrying out enquiries around the dogs, some of whom are believed to be stolen, and we are hopeful that they will either be returned to their original owners or found new homes by Christmas."
SCORE CHART: Ely Police show off their hare coursing successes this season
And, police in Ely, Cambridgeshire, tweeted a tally of their action since the 2018/19 hare coursing season began in October.
It included 20 vehicles seized, including two caravans, six dogs recovered, four people arrested and 12 reported for hunting offences.