Animal cruelty statistics revealed by the RSPCA show that West Yorkshire tops a league of shame for the number of people convicted of harming pets and wildlife.
The charity today released its annual figures for the number of complaints it has investigated in 2016 compared to the previous year over acts that one senior inspector described as “deliberate brutality”.
One case involved men making a pack of dogs savage badgers which they “kicked like footballs” in Bradford. The men then uploaded footage to social media website Instagram.
Dermot Murphy, assistant director of the RSPCA Inspectorate, said: “It never fails to shock me when I look back on the extreme instances of animal cruelty the RSPCA has been called upon to investigate.”
The number of complaints investigated in West Yorkshire was second only to Greater London in 2015 and 2016, with 7,694 and 7,920 reported offences looked into during those years respectively.
But the county topped the list for the amount of people convicted throughout England and Wales during the same period. This rose from 81 in 2015 to 94 last year, amounting to 44 people more than the second-highest area North Yorkshire.
Mr Murphy said: “It continues to outrage and sadden me that people can be capable of such deliberate brutality towards animals, but equally it drives me on to ensure that perpetrators of animal cruelty are put before the courts.
“I believe that the figures from last year show that we’re not becoming more cruel, but that people are simply less willing to stand by and do nothing if they think an animal is suffering.”
He added: “In the badger killing case in West Yorkshire, we learned about the offences after one of the defendants posted footage on Instagram.”
RSPCA inspector Danielle Grimshaw said: “The videos show the men putting dogs down a sett and encouraging them onto an escaping badger, and pulling badgers out and throwing them to waiting dogs. They’re goading the dogs, they’re laughing. 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.”
Four men pleaded guilty to these offences and a fifth man was found guilty.
The RSPCA’s figures reveal that the number of animal cruelty complaints that it investigated nationally increased last year.
Across England and Wales, inspectors investigated a total of 149,604 complaints last year, compared to 143,004 in 2015 – an increase of 4.61 per cent.
West, East, North and South Yorkshire all featured on a list of the top 10 counties for people convicted of animal cruelty. Overall, there were 188 convictions last year in Yorkshire.
South Yorkshire was seventh on the list of areas getting the most complaints.
The RSPCA run a 24-hour animal cruelty hotline. Call 0300 1234 999.