Four thugs who were caught laughing as their dogs tore wild animals to pieces have been jailed for their part in ‘barbaric’ and ‘abhorrent’ badger baiting.

Scarborough Magistrates’ Court heard how a group of six men and a teenage boy dug out and killed two badgers from a sett on farmland at Howsham, near York, in January last year.

Sobia Ahmed, prosecuting, said dogs played tug-of-war with one of the badgers before it was shot in the head and slung into undergrowth, while a pregnant badger was torn to pieces and bled to death.

A 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was given a youth rehabilitation order after he was also found guilty of wilfully killing a badger, hunting a mammal with dogs, digging for badgers and interfering with a badger sett.

Sentencing the men and the teenager, Ms Harrison said: ‘Badger baiting is regarded as a barbaric sport and the public feeling is one of revulsion.’

She continued: ‘The people of Yorkshire will not tolerate badger baiting in their midst. It’s barbaric, it’s abhorrent and anyone convicted of this kind of offence will receive a custodial sentence.

‘This is a clear signal to anybody who seeks to commit this kind of behaviour.’

Ms Ahmed told the court that two witnesses, including wildlife photographer Robert Fuller, heard the sound of dogs barking excitedly and a badger squealing in distress and went to investigate.

When they reached the scene, they saw two large dogs attacking a badger.

Ms Ahmed said: ‘They had hold of it in their mouths and were shaking it violently. They said the dogs were playing tug of war with the badger.’

Mr Fuller today recalled how the men ‘laughingly’ encouraged the beasts before they spotted Mr Fuller and fled the rural scene by the River Derwent, near Howsham in North Yorkshire.

After some time, the badger was shot dead by Anderson and the men, who had become aware of the witnesses and tried to cover their tracks by throwing the dead badger into the undergrowth.

They then buried a second dead badger – a pregnant animal which had been torn to pieces by the dogs – back into the hole from which it had been dug.

Ms Ahmed said witnesses called the police and the men and teenager were arrested a short time later.

Police and RSPCA inspectors who visited the scene found animal intestines and badger foetuses scattered around and areas of congealed blood, believed to be from where the badger had been shot.

When they recovered the two badgers, one was found to have been shot at close range and had a fractured skull and jaw.

The other had part of its abdomen missing and injuries consistent with being attacked by a dog.

Mr Fuller, 38, later gave his pictures to the police and RSPCA and they were used to convict the gang.

When they investigated, the authorities established the men had killed three adult badgers and three unborn cubs.

Ms Ahmed said the pregnant badger suffered ‘a sustained attack by a number of dogs that had caused the badger to be torn to pieces and eventually it bled to death’ while the other had a ‘gunshot wound to the head immediately after a severe and sustained attack by a number of dogs’.

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