Is Sussex becoming less compassionate towards animals?

Children witnessed firing at this Gull by Hailsham Church on Sunday.

A animal welfare charity is starting to question whether Sussex is becoming less compassionate towards wildlife after a series of cruelty incidents across the county.

Since November 2016 there have been three incidents of cruelty involving catapults in Hailsham. In the past two months there have been at least 12 shooting incidents as well as three incidents of young people throwing food into roads to encourage birds to get run over resulting in the injury of three birds.  The birds involved have included Peregrine Falcons, Gulls, Pigeons and Geese.

Numerous other incidents of people firing out of windows across other people’s property have also been reported to East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS) whose volunteers and staff are starting to get “worn down” by the level of cruelty they are having to deal with.

“These numbers of incidents are well up on previous years. Last year we only had 8 confirmed shootings in total, only 1 report of children trying to get birds run over. Our volunteers and staff and working round the clock dealing with sick and injured wildlife and these cases are adding extra work which we don’t need, its wearing us out. Chris and I are frequently working 15-20 hour days and it gets very demoralising having to deal with these cases especially when so tired” said Trevor Weeks MBE founder of East Sussex WRAS, “it frightening to think that this is just the tip of the iceberg as many others will have gone unnoticed to slowly die on roof tops or hidden in vegetation.”

Sunday was the latest incident where young people were seen firing catapults by Hailsham Church. One of the youngsters managed to hit a gull which crashed to the floor. A witness to the event contacted East Sussex WRAS and one of WRAS’s volunteers rushed the bird to WRAS’s Casualty Centre at Whitesmith.

“The bird was in a bad way and its wing was badly fractured. The bird had lost a lot of blood too. After providing emergency first aid and making the bird comfortable, the bird was seen at St Annes Vets in Eastbourne where sadly it had to be put to sleep” said Chris Riddington Duty Rescue Co-ordinator for WRAS.

“The amount of blood loss and a large open fracture means this gull won't be able to feed it's babies tonight. The fact the children were throwing chips to the poor bird to encourage it close to be able to shoot it, makes it even more disturbing. They were actually thinking of the best way to hurt the bird. To intentionally kill or injure a bird is illegal under the wildlife and countryside act” said Chris, “If your child left home at the weekend with a catapult in Hailsham it maybe worth speaking to them as you may end up with the Police knocking on your door. Our care team are in tears. There no need for this at all, this is just a cruelty.”

A number of studies have shown links between the abuse of animals and violence against people. “A study in America showed that of those arrested for animal crimes 65% had been arrested for battery against another person” said Trevor Weeks, “According to the Human Society of America Children who abuse animals are sending out clear warning sign that they pose a risk to themselves as well as to others. If you know of a young person who is committing these types of acts of cruelty please contact the Police so that action can be taken to get these people help and stop them before they cause harm to others. Its only a very short step from doing this to harming the neighbour’s cat or dog or another child and eventually becoming controlling or abusive in a relationship later in life. Getting help for these youngsters is vital to ensure they don’t make mistakes now which could affect them for the rest of their lives. It could also indicate that young persons committing these offences are being neglected or even being abused according to the NSPCC”

East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service is urging anyone who witnesses such an act of cruelty to contact Sussex Police on 101 or by dialling 999 if at the time of witnessing an act.  WRAS is also urging anyone concerned about young persons committing such crimes to contact the NSPCC for advice on how to help these people or to speak to their school or teachers for support in tackling the problem and getting youngsters the support and help that they need.

Further Information:

NSPCC Understanding the links Information for professionals child abuse, animal abuse and domestic violence.

Humane Society of America Animal Cruelty and Human Violence.

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