This week is National Wildlife Crime Week (19-15 October) and we’re highlighting our response to rural communities’ concerns about poaching.
Wildlife crime includes a range of offences such as poaching, killing or disturbing protected species, hare coursing and the trade in endangered species as outlined in the Wildlife and Countryside Act. These are not victimless crimes. As well as the unnecessary suffering caused to animals, they have a significant impact on rural communities.
In response to concerns from our rural communities we’ve been looking at the poaching issue in the South West during the past few hunting seasons.
Avon and Somerset Police are working to tackle the issue as part of a South West anti-poaching group which includes the Animal and Plant Health Agency, Devon and Cornwall Police, Crimestoppers, the Environment Agency, Environmental Health teams, Food Standards Agency, National Food Crime Unit, National Wildlife Crime Unit and Trading Standards.
We’re working together to tackle an issue which extends beyond the remit of any individual organisation, sharing information and using the most effective enforcement options when suspects are identified.
Local police want to reduce rural crime and protect people living in our rural communities. We know these criminals won’t worry about causing damage to crops and property when they trespass for game and are not above theft of other property while they’re there.
Avon and Somerset Wildlife Crime lead Sergeant 1353 Andy Whysall said: “We’ve seen that poaching today is not a matter of an individual taking one or two animals for the pot.
"Poaching now involves organised groups taking game and livestock to sell into the food chain"
They’re in it for financial gain, with no regard for the welfare of the animals or the unsuspecting end customer.
Any business supplying food, whether for profit or not, has a legal obligation to ensure it is fit to eat.
A number of potential health risks are associated with the consumption of wild game, not least faecal and environmental contamination from these criminals’ unhygienic processing techniques.
PS Whysall said: “As well as asking people to report poaching as it happens by calling 999, we want people to 'Turn in Poachers'.
"You can give us a ‘tip’ on who, what, where, when and how by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. They never ask your name or trace your call.
"We also need to know where the meat is being butchered, stored, bought and sold.”
Wildlife crime is illegal. If you have information about someone involved in wildlife crime in the Avon and Somerset policing area, you can report it:
Visit our wildlife crime pages