THE leaders of the Fitzwilliam Hunt have pledged their support to two employees who have been accused of interfering with a badger sett.
Gary Edwards, who lives on the Milton Estate, near Bretton, Peterborough, and his colleague, Cyril Smith, both work as terriermen for the hunt.
Both men will appear in court next week after the RSPCA brought two charges against each man under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.
The pair are accused of interfering with and damaging a badger sett.
But George Bowyer, joint master of the Fitzwilliam Hunt, today vowed to stand by them.
He said: “I can confirm that the RSPCA has issued private proceedings against Mr Edwards and Mr Smith and we are going to hotly contest these allegations.
“They are both registered terrier men and everything they did was in compliance with the Badger Act. We can’t understand why the RSPCA is bringing this prosecution. We fully support the two men.”
In hunting, earth-stopping is a common practice. Holes in the ground are blocked by a hunt’s terriermen to prevent foxes from escaping the hounds.
Edwards and Smith, of Oakham, near Stamford, are due to appear before Peterborough Magistrates Court on Thursday.
They face a fine of up to £5,000 or up to six months in jail if they are convicted.
Mr Bowyer added: “Hunting is selective. Young and fit foxes get away and the older ones are caught that s natural selection. Badger setts are protected by law, but we are allowed to stop them under the terms of the act. Although the RSPCA is claiming the men did so illegally, we will vigorously contest this.”
But Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: We believe that the practice of interfering with a badger s sett to facilitate a good day s hunting is something which should be banned.