Animals are still suffering and dying in snares on land owned by Viscount Cowdray, one of Britain’s wealthiest men, despite a ban on snaring introduced almost two years ago following a series of badger snaring incidents. This snared fox was photographed (14th December 2005) at Hoe Copse, Cocking, West Sussex.

Following a police caution given to one of Viscount Cowdray’s gamekeepers at Bepton in 2003 as a result of a badger snaring incident, another snared badger was discovered only two miles away at Cocking just months later. That badger was found on post-mortem to have been clubbed to death. This was the final straw and Viscount Cowdray wrote to all his tenants asking them not to set snares in future.

However, following the ban a snared badger attached to a log was discovered at Cocking Hill on 27th November 2004, and which was reported in the Midhurst and Petworth Observer. At the time, the gamekeeper, Mr Smallman, told Sergeant Gordon Cross from Midhurst that it could have been the responsibility of gypsies who had camped in the quarry on the hill in previous months.

Our suspicion was that, as with the earlier Hoe Copse badger, this snare had originated from Mr Smallman’s patch. We visited the scene, and found a direct route over fields to Mr Smallman’s pheasant pens. However, without the evidence what could we do?

Then suddenly the finger of suspicion pointed more directly at Mr Smallman. We received a tip-off that a snared badger had been found in the pond of Mill Cottage, Cocking in April 2005. Our information was that Mr Smallman was alerted to this and visited the owner (who was not particularly badger friendly) with another person and persuaded her into not alerting the police, and she buried the body.

Following our tip-off we alerted the police, and PC Rob Knight dug up the body of the badger with the snare still around it in the garden at Mill Cottage. PC Knight spoke to Mr Smallman, but he made no mention that he was already aware of the snared badger and had visited the owner. If our information was correct, and Mr Smallman was already aware of the snared badger, there can only be two reasons for his silence on the issue when speaking to the police: he would be both embarrassed that (a) he had not alerted the police given the history, and (b) that it would imply his culpability.

Now, with a snared fox discovered just a few hundred yards from Mr Smallman’s house, we have written to Viscount Cowdray to demand why his edict is being treated with such contempt.