A two-day trial concluded at Scarborough Magistrates yesterday with the conviction of game farm owner Michael Wood, who was found guilty of permitting a pole trap last June.
Wood owns Westfield Farm in Cropton, North Yorkshire – a pheasant and partridge and duck breeding facility that supplies young birds to the game-shooting industry.
RSPB investigators found five pole traps placed around the rearing pens last summer. These traps are so barbaric they were outlawed over 100 years ago. They are basically a steel spring trap placed on top of a post (and usually nailed to the post with a short chain) so when a raptor lands on it, the trap crushes the bird’s legs and the bird is left dangling upside down for a prolonged and agonising death. Unbelievably, two farm workers were just given police cautions last year for setting these traps – why weren’t they prosecuted?
Wood was seen by the RSPB Investigations Team driving past one of the pole traps. His defence argued that he hadn’t seen it, but the magistrates didn’t believe him and said it was “inconceivable” that he wouldn’t have seen it.
Wood was fined £4,000, and ordered to pay £750 court costs as well as a £120 victim surcharge, amounting to a grand total of £4,870.
Great work by the RSPB Investigations Team (again).
Full details of this case can be read in the RSPB’s press release here
This isn’t Wood’s first conviction. In 2011, Wood and Yorks Sports Ltd (of which Wood was a Director) pleaded guilty to seven offences under the Wildlife & Countryside Act after defying official warnings and releasing thousands of pheasants (for shooting) on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) when they’d only been given consent to release 500 birds. It was argued the birds had caused ‘significant damage’ to the conservation area. Wood and Yorks Sports Ltd were fined £20,000 each, plus a £15 victim surcharge, plus £125,000 between them towards the prosecutions costs. They also had to pay a £145,000 defence bill. (News article here).
Interestingly, it has been reported (by a media court reporter) that Wood is the Chairman of the Game Farmers’ Association [“Representing the UK’s game farmers and promoting high standards“] although we haven’t been able to find any supportive evidence of his Chairmanship. What we did find on the GFA’s website, though, is that their contact for ‘media and political enquiries’ is one Charles Nodder. Who he? Why, he’s the PR and political adviser of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation. Let’s make a ‘media enquiry’ and ask him whether Wood is the Chair of the GFA, or if not whether he’s simply a member, and if so, whether he’ll be kicked out of the club, and if he isn’t kicked out of the club whether Noddy intends to continue working for an organisation whose membership includes someone convicted of wildlife crime. Emails to: firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE: Looks like someone called Mike Wood is indeed involved with the GFA – helping out on their stand at the CLA Game Fair in 2013. There’s also a charming pic of Noddy meeting Owen Paterson to discuss the GFA’s rearing guide. Read here.
Here’s one of the five pole traps found at Westfield Farm (photo RSPB).
Here’s a graphic example of what can happen when a buzzard lands on a pole trap (NB: this photo was not taken at Westfield Farm).