FIVE men were convicted yesterday of causing the “horrific and barbaric” deaths of two badgers in an organised bait.
Pickering man William Anderson, 26, along with Alan Alexander, 32, Richard Simpson, 37, Paul Tindall, 33, and a 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, used a Bedlington Terrier with a tracking collar to locate the badgers in their underground sett.
They then dug down into the animals’ chamber before setting their lurchers on the badgers, one of which was heavily pregnant with two cubs.
Following the verdict, an emotional Geoff Edmond, Scarborough’s RSPCA inspector, said: “I have been in this job for 20 years and this was the worst, most horrific badger case I’ve ever had to deal with.
“Seeing the foetus that day was one of the most distressing things I’ve come across.”
The men were found guilty of wilfully killing a badger, digging for badgers, interfering with setts and hunting a wild mammal with dogs.
Alexander and Simpson were also convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal, after they made their own dogs participate in the bait.
The offences were committed in Paradise Farm, near Malton, in January.
A sixth man who was on trial, 34-year-old James Doyle, was found not guilty of all charges by district judge Kristina Harrison.
Delivering her verdict, she said: “It is a fact that a badger bait occurred. These animals died a horrible death, being ripped apart by the dogs.”
The judge added that blaming the bait on a “shadowy figure” of a ninth man, who the men said had been present but refused to name, was a “ludicrous proposition”.
After the bait, the five convicted men, along with 28-year-olds Christopher Holmes and Malcolm Warner, who had previously pleaded guilty, tried to cover their tracks after they noticed they were being watched.
Renowned wildlife artist Robert Fuller, along with a friend, took pictures of the bait, which were used as evidence, and called the police.
Judge Harrison said: “They should be commended for their actions. They saw a group of armed men with vicious dogs. Despite this they held their ground and kept them under observation. Mr Fuller even took photos.
“He was highly courageous on that day and we owe him a great debt.”
She also praised North Yorkshire Police for their quick response to the incident and singled out Sergeant Paul Stephenson, who investigated the case, for the way he put the evidence together.
The seven men will be sentenced together on January 10 in Scarborough.