TEN people have been arrested on suspicion of causing suffering to animals and disturbing a badger sett.

The arrests were made as part of in a joint police and RSPCA operation in Bracewell, near Gisburn, at 4.30am on Sunday.

The men – three from Barnoldswick and the other seven from Wigan and Leigh – have been released on police bail pending further enquiries.

The operation followed a tip-off that a group were planning to visit the area to carry out a deer hunt and badger digging. They were arrested at the site of a badger sett.

Deer hunting involves beaters forcing animals out of woodland where they are torn apart by waiting dogs.

Badger digging, outlawed in 1973, involves terriers wearing a signal-emitting collar being sent into a sett. Hunters trace the signal and when a badger is found they dig down and pull the animal to the surface when it is thrown to dogs and torn apart.

Sergeant Natasha Shaw, of Colne Police, said: “This is the first time we’ve worked in partnership with the RSPCA on an operation of this nature, although we do call on each others support when needed.

“As far as both ourselves and the RSPCA are concerned, the operation was a success, with 10 people arrested and what we suspect could have been potentially devastating damage to local wildlife prevented.”

Chief Inspector Terry Spamer, of the RSPCA’s North West Special Operations Unit, added: “Wildlife crime is a problem for us and it can be very hard to detect. With this in mind, I would urge anyone information about wildlife crime to contact their local RSPCA offices.

“Where we have sufficient information on suspected offenders, we will take action as demonstrated yesterday.”

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