Conviction proves link between fox hunting and other animal abuse

The long suspected link between fox hunting and other forms of animal abuse has been proven in court in Wales today, says an animal welfare charity.

The League Against Cruel Sports, has welcomed the custodial sentence imposed on David Thomas, the Master of the Dwyryd Hunt, following his conviction for badger baiting and six other animal welfare offences. Three other men were sentenced at Llandudno Magistrates Court today including Jordan Houlston, a terrier man who was also found guilty of animal welfare offences.

Eduardo Gonçalves, Chief Executive at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "Sadly it comes as no surprise that a huntsman has been engaged in other horrific practices involving cruelty to animals. David Thomas, who founded the Dwyryd hunt in 1994, and as both Master and Huntsman is effectively the entire hunt staff, should step down, the hunt itself should be disbanded, and the hounds relocated elsewhere. He shouldn't be allowed any more opportunities to terrorise and kill wildlife.

"Hunting routinely involves the chasing and killing of animals and is bloodthirsty and barbaric. We have long suspected that the people behind hunts are involved in a range of animal welfare abuses involving the killing of animals for fun and this case illustrates the terrible savagery a small but determined minority of people are happy to inflict in the name of 'sport'. The use of terrier men to set their dogs on animals illustrates the cold-blooded and ruthless nature of the hunts.

"Last week we welcomed a report by senior MPs* which included proposals to treat cruelty to wild animals in the same way as domestic or farm animals with the maximum prison sentence increasing from six months to five years in England and Wales. The reality is that if this kind of abuse was judged under the Hunting Act 2004 these men would have received nothing more than a small fine. In 2018 we hope to see these tougher sentences introduced and cruel practices such as badger baiting and illegal hunting treated in the same way and as serious crimes. It's time for the hunts' and animal abusers' crimes to be properly punished."

The four men were charged under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and Animal Welfare Act 2006.

The offences took place at the hunt kennels at Cwm Bowydd Farm in Blaenau Ffestiniog in north Wales where pipes held captive animals for dogs to fight. David Thomas was convicted of unnecessary suffering to a badger after forcing terrified animals to fight with dogs at his farm while other men watched. Along with the artificial badger setts, seven skulls possibly from foxes or badgers were found in the kennels. The evidence used to obtain the convictions was gathered by the RSPCA who conducted a surveillance operation at the hunt kennels.

David Thomas was sentenced to 22 weeks, ordered to pay costs of £5,000 and banned from owning and keeping dogs for eight years. Jordan Houlston – a terrier man – was sentenced to 20 weeks, ordered to pay £600 costs with a £115 surcharge, and banned from owning and keeping dogs for eight years. Two other men were also sentenced. Mark Morris was ordered to pay costs of £500 plus a £115 surcharge and to do 150 hours of unpaid work, and a 17-year-old youth who cannot be named who was ordered to pay costs of £200 plus a £20 surcharge. Both received suspended sentences and were banned from owning and keeping dogs for four years.It was revealed in court that the Dwyryd Hunt paid for the services of terrier man Jordan Houlston.

- Ends -

Notes to editor

* The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) report scrutinised and welcomed the ‘important and worthwhile’ steps in improving animal welfare included in the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill published in December.

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