North Yorkshire Police have been praised by a leading animal welfare charity following the successful conviction of a cruel cockfighting ring.

27 birds have been rescued from a life of fighting thanks to the dedicated work of officers from the force’s Rural Taskforce. The animals had suffered horribly sustaining a range of wounds after being reared for and forced to participate in cock fights.

One individual who orchestrated cockfighting contests was imprisoned  and another who attended fights was fined, following their conviction at Harrogate Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

Chris Luffingham, Director of Campaigns at League Against Cruel Sports, says:

“When most people imagine cockfighting, they think of a scene reminiscent of Victorian times. Yet cases like the one in North Yorkshire act as a stark reminder that in modern Britain today, a murky world exists where people gain entertainment from betting on which bird will maim and kill the other first.

“The League Against Cruel Sports strongly praises North Yorkshire Police and the CPS for securing this important conviction and ensuring one of those who has engaged in this twisted activity is now behind bars where they belong. Any individuals with information about cockfighting, those involved or places where these sick competitions are held is urged to report it in confidence to our Animal Crimewatch hotline.”

Acting on an anonymous call, officers from North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce and the RSPCA attended premises at Skutterskelf, near Stokesley.

A number of men were located there. Officers searched the building and vehicles, and seized a total of 27 live birds, some of which were bleeding from cuts to the body and head. Inside a stable block, officers located bird feathers, and dried and fresh bloodstains on the floor and carpet.

Extremely graphic footage of cockfighting was also recovered from one of the criminal’s phones.

Sergeant Kevin Kelly of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, says:

“This is one of the worst examples of animal cruelty I have seen in over 15 years of police service, so much so that I took the decision not to have the investigating officers view the video footage recovered from Welch’s mobile phone, due to its extreme graphic nature and scenes of catastrophic suffering to the animals involved.

“The jail sentence should be seen as a stark warning to animal abusers up and down the country that the police and RSPCA, given the chance, will come for you.”

The League urges anybody with information about animal fighting to confidentially contact the charity’s Animal Crimewatch Hotline on 01483 361 108 or email [email protected].

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●        For more information or interview requests please contact the League Against Cruel Sports Press Office on 01483 524250 (24hrs) or email [email protected]

●        The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain's leading charity that works to stop animals being persecuted, abused and killed for sport. The League was instrumental in helping bring about the landmark Hunting Act. We carry out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals and campaign for stronger animal protection laws and penalties. We work to change attitudes and behaviour through education and manage sanctuaries to protect wildlife. Find out more about our work at www.league.org.uk. Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).