A GANG of men who were “laughing and celebrating” as they killed four badgers by setting dogs on them in a “truly barbaric” act have been jailed.
Kaider Tariq, 22, Nathan Niland, 26, Tristan Asbury, 18, and Luke Lowther, 26, committed the ‘badger-baiting’ offences in woodland in North Yorkshire in January last year.
Their actions sparked an RSPCA investigation when a member of the public saw pictures of Tariq holding a dead badger on his Instagram account.
Prosecutor Andrew Davison told Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court yesterday that all four men had been involved in digging out badger setts on January 18, with Lowther absent on a second trip on January 25 when the others were stopped by police as they drove on the A1237 York outer ring-road.
He said the group had used a pack of dogs to flush the badgers out before setting the animals on them.
They then took then animals and kicked and stamped on them, also hitting them with a spade.
They filmed and took pictures of their actions, and Mr Davison said that in some of the images, the men could be seen “holding up badgers as trophies.”
He said the group had shown a “significant enjoyment of abusing and torturing badgers” by “savagely” attacking them.
“This case is about people who go to considerable lengths to seek out animals who are completely overwhelmed by them as more powerful adversaries,” he said.
“This is as serious a case of animal cruelty as I have seen.”
After the RSPCA were made aware of the images on Tariq’s social media, officers teamed up with police to execute a warrant on his home on Dalby Avenue, Bradford Moor, on July 8.
They found two dogs being kept in a back yard filled with “faeces, urine, and rubbish”, and three cockerels suffering from a serious foot infection.
Analysis of Tariq’s phone subsequently led to the arrests of Niland, of Idle Road, Idle, Asbury, of Lymington Drive, Holme Wood, and Lowther, of Farway, Holme Wood.
RSPCA officers subsequently seized a number of dogs from Niland’s then address on Sticker Lane, after finding them suffering from injury.
Graphic video footage of the two badger-baiting trips was played to the court, with the clips show the group pulling the animals out of their setts and throwing them to waiting dogs.
RSPCA inspector Danielle Grimshaw, who was involved in the investigation, said: “All the time you can hear the badgers screaming. They hit the badgers with spades, hold them down while they’re being mauled, and kick them like footballs.
“You can hear them saying things like “Don’t like getting bit these dogs do they”, “Look at that, still putting up a fight”, “Stand on its neck,”, and “Good ten minutes and it’s still alive.”
“At one point, they hold a dying badger up to the camera and pose for pictures before giving it back to the dogs.”
The court also saw separate video footage of dogs being set upon a domestic rabbit, leading to an additional charge of animal cruelty against Tariq.
Saf Salam, mitigating for Asbury and Lowther, admitted his client’s actions had been “barbaric and abhorrent”, and said their behaviour “would haunt them for the rest of their lives.”
Kevin Walker, for Tariq, said his client had been led by peer pressure and “unaware” his actions were illegal.
Clive Rees, for father-of-three Niland, said his client’s offending had caused the breakdown of his relationship and the loss of his job in a pet shop.
Chairman of the bench Alice Brett described the gang’s actions as “truly barbaric” and an “extremely distressing case.”
“All four defendants were laughing and celebrating triumphantly at the deaths of these animals, which we find truly repugnant,” she said.
“It is the unanimous decision of the bench that these crimes pass the custody threshold.”
Tariq and Niland, who had admitted additional charges of animal cruelty alongside the badger-related offences, were both jailed for 24 weeks.
Asbury was sentenced to 18 weeks, and Lowther to 12 weeks.
All four were given lifetime bans from owning dogs, with Tariq banned from owning any animal.