Police hunt animal abusers

A sustained attack on defenceless lambs while onlookers laughed was condemned yesterday.

But police said they had identified some of the people involved and expected to make an arrest yesterday.

The move came after a viral video surfaced on social media last Friday that showed the attack on the lambs, which are owned by Westover Farm in Sandys.

Richard Bascome, manager and part-owner of the farm, said: “I can’t understand why someone would do that to a defenceless animal. It is way beyond youthful mischievousness. We have never come across anything like this; I was outraged.

“It is our livelihood, they are raised for meat, but we bend over backwards to make sure that they are humanely treated until the end.”

The video, which lasted a little more than two minutes, catalogued a series of attacks on the animal.

The clip showed a man lifting a lamb by the tail and throwing it to the ground and a chase that ended with another lamb being thrown into a cactus bush.

A man behind the camera laughed at the first attack and said: “That’s my boy.”

Another sequence showed a man pushing the two terrified lambs to the edge of a rooftop as another man encouraged him to “push it off”. The video continues with the first man throwing one of the lambs some distance off the roof.

Mr Bascome said all the lambs at the farm had since been checked and appear to be well.

Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley said on Twitter yesterday that investigations by police and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had been launched.

He added: “This is a shocking and abhorrent video. We believe we know the identity of the person involved and are seeking his arrest today alongside the person filming.”

Mr Corbishley said later: “This is a shocking video of continuous and intended cruelty with no consideration to anything other than hurting or indeed causing the death of defenceless animals.

“The BPS is taking the matter extremely seriously, including tracking down the person responsible for taking the video who is complicit in this offence.”

Libby Cook-Toppan, an animal rights campaigner and former employee of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said there was an established link between animal torture and abuse of people.

She added: “Acts of cruelty towards animals who cannot defend themselves are particularly disturbing.

“In addition to increased punishments for perpetrators, psychological help should be required and provided.

“As a community, we must join together in condemning this behaviour as cruelty. Animals are sentient beings and they feel pain and suffering.”

Ms Cook-Toppan added she was also shocked by the people heard to laugh as the abuse onslaught went on.

She said: “I think the laughter is abhorrent while these poor, defenceless beings were being treated in the most disgusting manner.”

Laura Henagulph, a psychologist at Hamilton’s Atlantis Psychiatry, backed Ms Cook-Toppan. She said that “cruelty to animals is a marker for other abusive, controlling behaviours towards people”.

Ms Henagulph added: “People who have been abused or neglected often have difficulty in recognising their own emotions.

“This also means that they struggle with recognising emotions in other beings, whether they are people or animals.

“In therapy, we call this the ability to mentalise — to see that others have feelings and intentions that are different from your own.”

Ms Henagulph said: “In extreme cases, an inability to mentalise and a severe lack of empathy means that others are treated like objects to be used.

“In treatment, we would use mentalisation-based therapy, based on attachment theory, to increase a person’s capacity to see others as separate beings and to empathise with them.

“This would also increase a person’s insight into themselves and their ability to tolerate uncomfortable feeling states, such as fear or helplessness, without acting out in such a horrifying way.”

Ian Walker, curator at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, who emphasised he was speaking in a private capacity, said: “I do hope they catch the individuals — you wonder what may have happened in those people’s lives to be that callous.”

Inspector Ian MacFarlaine, of the SPCA, declined to comment because he did not want to “prejudice the prospect of a successful trial for their actions since success may rest on the identification of the accused”.

Wayne Caines, the national security minister, said he had found the video “deeply disturbing” and that he expected someone to “appear in the Magistrates’ Court in the not too distant future”.

Police said today they were investigating in conjunction with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

A spokesman said: “The Bermuda Police Service is taking the matter extremely seriously and efforts are ongoing to bring the individual being filmed committing the offence into custody — as well as to track down the individual behind the camera.

“The public should be aware that cruelty to animals is an offence under the Care and Protection of Animals Act 1975, which carries penalties of up to 12 months in prison and/or fines.

Witnesses or anyone with information should call Constable Melvin Best on 717-2385 or via the Somerset Police Station on 234-1010.

Anyone with information that could help the inquiry should contact Somerset Police Station on 295-0011 or the anonymous and confidential Crime Stoppers hotline at 800-8477

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Published Apr 9, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Apr 9, 2019 at 6:49 pm)

Police hunt animal abusers

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