Almost 10,000 (9,997) calls reporting intentional harm inflicted on a wild animal have been taken by the RSPCA over the past five years, according to new figures from the animal charity. 14 intentional harm incidents were reported in Hertfordshire in 2020.
As part of its Cancel Out Cruelty campaign, RSPCA data showed that wild mammals and birds bore the brunt of the abuse 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. The figures also reveal that deliberate cruelty to wildlife is its highest during the summer months. Last year (2020), 376 wild animals were reported to have been intentionally harmed across the lockdown months of June to August alone.
In 2020, the five areas which topped the list with the highest number of wildlife abuse reports were Greater London (101), Kent (37), West Midlands (36), Greater Manchester (35) and West Yorkshire (30).
RSPCA 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’.
‘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 hedgehog stoned to death in Nottinghamshire
- a collared dove shot with a crossbow in Greater Manchester
- lurcher-type dogs being encouraged to chase down hares (Cambridgeshire)
- a gull being repeatedly kicked outside a supermarket in Middlesbrough
- foxes being deliberately trapped and kept (bagged) then let loose to be hunted by dogs (Kent)
- dogs encouraged to hunt down and attack deer in Bury
- a bat roost sprayed with chemicals until the bats died in Northampton
- a swan shot six times in Wrexham (x ray pictured)
Adam 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 to either the RSPCA’s cruelty line on 0300 1234 999, Crimestoppers or their local police force.’
Across a five year period (2016-2020), RSPCA data shows that foxes were by far the most persecuted wild mammal, with a total of 2,299 reports of intentional harm, followed by deer (500), badgers (497), rabbits (388) and hedgehogs (331). Pigeons were the bird most likely to be harmed intentionally with 1,518 cruelty reports received, followed by swans (700), gulls (648), ducks (395) and geese (336).
The RSPCA’s Cancel Out Cruelty campaign aims to raise funds to keep its rescue teams on the frontline saving animals in desperate need of help as well as raise awareness about how we can all work together to stamp out cruelty for good.
The RSPCA gets around 84,000 calls to its cruelty line every month and around 1,500 of those are about intentional cruelty. But the charity sees a rise in the summer by around 400 calls, on average, per month, which equates to 47 calls every day or two every hour.
The RSPCA’s rescue teams need support to stay out on the frontline as the only charity rescuing animals and investigating cruelty.
To donate to the Cancel Out Cruelty campaign and help us continue to rescue animals in need, visit www.rspca.org.uk/stopcruelty.