A visitor to Hillsborough Forest Park on Saturday afternoon spoke of his anguish at witnessing a cruel attack on a number of swans.
Graeme Jardin from London was on a brief visit home and out for a stroll in the park around 4pm when he noticed young children, some as young as seven, throwing stones at swans and cygnets.
“It looked from a distance as if they were feeding the swans,” said Graeme.
“They weren’t. These kids had picked up small stones from the gravel path and were throwing them at the swans.
“I think the children were with a larger group of adults just starting a walk from the car park.
“At what age are you supposed to know that you should not try to injure wildlife for fun?”
David Wilson from the USPCA urged anyone who may have witnessed such animal cruelty in the park to contact the police in Hillsborough.
He reminded the public that attacks to animals, especially to swans that are protected species, are illegal
“Hillsborough police are very good at tackling animal cruelty as I have dealt with them quite often in the past,” he said.
“Cruelty unfortunately, of this nature is a widespread issue throughout Northern Ireland.
“These types of attacks are totally reprehensible for this to happen and no doubt shocking for anyone to have witnessed.
“We quite often get calls about cruelty to swans and cygnets but often more so about crossbow attacks or fishermen leaving litter and getting caught up with fish hooks. The problem for us with swans is that they are a nightmare to catch and will have to go to great lengths to get them.
“We had a problem a few years ago near Distillery Football Club where we attempted to capture injured swans. It took us two days and we ended up getting help from the fire service and used goal posts to capture the birds. They were very difficult to catch.
“I would urge people who may be in Hillsborough Forest Park to continue to keep their eyes and ears open and report cruelty to the police.”
Councillor Luke Poots condemned the attack on the swans calling it both ‘inhuman’ and ‘illegal.’
“I have contacted the police and the Forestry Department who are now on the look out for such behaviour,” he said.
“It is important that we protect our animals and that we discourage this horrible activity.
“Young people shouldn’t be brought up to think that this is cool.”