Belfast Telegraph

Editor's viewpoint: Our levels of animal abuse truly shocking

Editor's viewpoint

A year ago, partly due to public pressure, the Assembly introduced the most stringent animal cruelty penalties in the UK.

This followed a number of high-profile cases which shocked many people due to the abuses involved.

This newspaper was one of the voices calling for increased penalties.

With the most serious cases now attracting jail terms of up to five years and fines of £20,000, it was a move welcomed by animal lovers throughout the province.

Yet sadly it does not seem to deter those who have no feelings for animals, either domestic or wild. One of the most extreme examples are those involved in badger baiting.

They're so brazen that they even brag on Facebook about the number of badgers they have killed, even though the animals are protected.

It is not only the badgers which suffer a cruel death in such incidents, but also the dogs that are sent into their setts. One such unfortunate animal was recently pulled out of Newry canal.

Many of the dogs used in badger baiting suffer such horrific injuries that they are destroyed. Even if they could be treated the people using them dare not go to vets otherwise their vile activities would be uncovered.

While the majority of people are animal lovers, it is clear that a substantial number do not share their caring natures.

From 2012 until 2016 some 6,000 incidents of animal abuse were recorded in the province.

That is a shocking indictment of a civilised community.

But there are also differing views of how animals should be treated. Our story today of how a family's pony was shot in error by a man out hunting foxes is a case in point.

To many people living in the countryside, foxes are vermin and have to be kept under control. They know the damage they can do to poultry or to lambs.

Others may feel that hunting foxes is cruel. It may be an idealised view of the animal, but they are the people who ended traditional fox hunting with dogs and horses in the UK.

To them, even vermin deserve to be treated with some humanity.

However, we should not forget the owners of the pony in this very sad case.

The animal was shot by accident but the incident shows the need for great care to be taken by anyone going out shooting.

It could have been even more tragic.

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