Game farm owner convicted of pole trap offence

Michael Wood Westfield Game Farm - CopyA 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:

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).

Pole trap 1 of 5 westfield game farm 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).

BZ pole trap c - Copy

17 thoughts on “Game farm owner convicted of pole trap offence”

  1. Yes, another successful result in finding this ‘Pheasant breeder’ guilty of [permitting] the pole trap and many congratulations to anyone and everyone whose efforts went to bring about this case and the brilliant result.

    [Ed: Slight edit made – he was guilty of ‘permitting’ the trap, not ‘setting’ it. Two of his employees were given police cautions for using the traps]

  2. Apologies for my error of ‘setting’ not ‘permitting’ the pole trap. I have e-mailed Mr Nodder and hope to furnish you with his reply in due course. By the way, my e-mail referred to Mr Woods ‘permitting’ not ‘setting’ the trap.

  3. To all readers of this blog please tweet and mention on your social media sights this incident and alert everybody who uses the countryside, birders, ramblers etc. to be on the look out for these traps. There will be, somewhere within the British countryside, pole traps such as these set as I write now. Particularly those people who ramble around areas that have had history of raptor persecution, use your binoculars to look along fence posts and areas where there is keeper activity. As many of you know, raptor persecution is an all year round activity for some but from now and over the next few months, in some areas of the countryside, the crims will be ramping things up, be it setting down poison baits, taking random shots at raptors and setting illegal traps. Birders against wildlife crime is a great site to visit to learn more as well as Project Raptor’s website. It is up to our eagle eyes to keep watch over our precious wildlife.

  4. A fine if we needed anymore!!…of how bird of prey persecution cuts right through the game shooting industry..weve now seen convictions right through from pheasant suppliers, pheasant breeders, pheasant gamekeepers, pheasant shooters, shoot managers and finally landowners where shoots take place. Quite a lot of rotten apples in this particular barrel??!…..Good work again by RSPB team…glad to see the little hiccup caused by Yorkshire Magistrates hasnt prevented justice in this case.

  5. Another cruel piece of human low life has had his comeuppance in court, great news. Well done once again to the RSPB.

  6. Yes, well done to all of those involved with this successful prosecution.

    A quick web search on this person has produced some interesting results.

    On the field sports magazine website, there is a page dedicated to Yorkshire’s top twenty shoots. A quick scroll down the page, should see you arrive at Farndale, an estate owned by the family behind Barratt Homes, but leased to “well known local game farmer Mike Wood”. Further down the page, another area (Place Newton) is noted as being run by Michael Wood.

    Revisiting a RPS post from the not too distant past, where we are informed of a Buzzard being found shot at Farndale. Coincidence?

    Another website, this time belonging to Animal Aid, where we learn that animal welfare was somewhat lacking at Michael Wood’s Westfield Farm. The evidence of pole-trap usage is proof that animal cruelty, albeit of a different nature, is still considered the norm by this person, and his company.

    Another website, Pheasant Shooting Reviews, details “an amazing day” on the Black Park shoot, where the host was named as Michael Wood. Obviously the author was unaware of the history of animal cruelty and criminal behaviour being permitted by Wood – or he/she didn’t give a damn, just like the majority of those involved with the shooting industry.

    We also have a direct link between Michael Wood and the National Gamekeepers Organisation. A certain Michael Wood was the donor of Lot 151 in the NGO Auction 2014. Considering Wood’s first conviction was in 2011, we have the NGO once again associating with known criminals. I wonder how much spin Mr Nodder will try to apply to this one?

    Click to access AuctionCatalogue.pdf

  7. Apparently Michael Wood is appealing – or considering an appeal – against this sentence and Charles Noddy therefore finds it inappropriate to comment further on the subject. Mr Wood is confirmed as the Chairman of GFA and no mention as been made as to whether or not he will remain so.

  8. Wood’s expression to camera and the blatant repetition of offences apparently show that he sees no stigma in the conviction. The widespread criminality in shooting is much more of a deliberate political statement than it is a game management issue and you can be sure that Wood has the moral support of his associates and the majority of the shooting ‘industry’ and its hangers on. Financially, Wood can also apparantly afford to make these statements. The logical next step is custodial sentencing in England but you might just create martyrs to the laughable idea that these people are in some way victims of the ‘Townies’ and their ‘bad laws’. That leaves only their permanent removal from the land, which, in Scotland, might just be possible in the next twenty years.

    1. It could easily be argued that he is not fit to keep animals….. Everyone would benefit if there was one less industrial scale game factory.

  9. Excellent work by the wildlife protection movement for uncovering the tangled web of dubious activity. And what is it all for? – to make rich men richer. Nice to see high fines involved too, but what we want is a legal way to stop them operating.

  10. we are in no way dealing with a few bad apples here we are in fact dealing with highly organised criminal gangs, hundreds of thousands of pounds in tax payers money is being pumped into this industry and its all flowing out into offshore tax havens (see “ Who owns Kildrummy Estate” blog 13th Jan 15 ).
    every estate reports a loss despite all the public funding, pheasants at £3 a poult released in their millions then shot 10 weeks later for well over 100% profit. Grouse £150 per brace minimum, You couldn’t lose money if you tried! week after week we see these people being brought up in court rooms being represented by the best barristers, money is no object to them, ask yourselves does this sound like an industry bleeding money? Wood might appeal his sentence, he’s probably hoping his appeal will be heard in North Yorkshire, Al Capone would be jealous of this lot, corrupt through and through and still F*****G “UNTOUCHABLE”

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