Mon. Oct 26th, 2020


The RSPCA has received more than 21,600 reports of animals injured or caught in litter over the past five years, new statistics reveal.

The animal welfare charity is urging people to ensure they are taking their litter home with them or disposing of it properly and responsibly.

And they are also urging members of the public to “snip the straps” from used disposable face masks.

Dumped face masks have become a new hazard to wildlife since the pandemic started. A gull in Chelmsford in Essex was recently found with a face mask wrapped tightly around his legs.

Despite the face mask causing swelling to his legs, the bird has now fully recovered but the RSPCA hopes their “snip the straps” message will stop similar incidents taking place.


But there were similar problems during lockdown, with the RSPCA were called to several distressing incidents involving litter.

On April 28, an owl needed help after getting tangled in fishing line in a tree in Lancashire.

The owl’s foot was trapped in fishing litter and he was spotted dangling from a tree in Hoghton near Preston. An RSPCA officer rescued the bird and took him to a nearby vet where they cut the wire free. The owl is now recovering at a local wildlife centre.

Juvenile grey seal Galactica was rescued from Horsey, Norfolk, on May 24 after being spotted on the beach with blue plastic netting tangled tightly around her neck.

She’s now receiving specialist care at RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre where vets removed the netting. She’s the 56th seal to be admitted to the centre with these injuries since 2008.

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Two swans were struggling to stay above water after getting tangled together in fishing line. RSPCA rescuers managed to get them to shore at Sturt Pond in Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, on May 27 before untangling them. The weaker swan was almost completely submerged so could have easily drowned.

And a fox cub got his head stuck in a discarded tin can whilst looking for his next meal in Camberwell, London, on May 6. An RSPCA officer was able to catch him and carefully wriggle him free before releasing him back into the wild.

But these incidents are not isolated because over the past five years, the RSPCA’s emergency hotline in England and Wales has received 6,466 calls about animals affected by general litter – like tin cans, plastic bottles and elastic bands.

There have also been 15,183 reports relating to animals injured or caught in angling litter. There have been a further 12,904 reports of animals and birds trapped in netting, which includes netting discarded as rubbish but this also includes sports netting or netting put on bushes or trees to deter birds.

The statistics have been revealed after the Don’t Trash Our Future campaign against littering was launched.

Local community and information platform InYourArea.co.uk and our nationwide network of sister newspapers and websites have teamed up with Clean Up Britain to push for changes.

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We’re calling for lasting changes to be made that will ensure littering and those responsible for it are dealt with far more seriously.

Together with our community platform InYourArea and campaign group Clean Up Britain, we’re calling for the fixed penalty notice for anyone caught littering to be increased to £1,000 and for it to be compulsory for local authorities to enforce the law on what is already a criminal offence.

Sign our petition here, and find out more about the campaign here.

Head of the RSPCA’s wildlife team Adam Grogan said: “Our staff are dealing with thousands of incidents every year where animals and birds have been impacted by litter – and they’re the ones that we know of. I’m sure for every animal we’re able to help there are many that go unseen, unreported and may even lose their lives.

“Litter is one of the biggest hazards our wildlife faces today – and it’s something that’s very easy to resolve. That’s why we’re calling on the public to take extra care to clear up after they’ve been out for a walk or enjoyed a picnic in the woods.”

As well as everyday rubbish, the RSPCA also sees many animals arriving into our care with terrible injuries caused by angling litter such as discarded fishing line and plastic netting.

Waterfowl and seals are often admitted to the RSPCA’s four wildlife centres with nasty wounds caused by fishing hooks, line and netting.

Adam added: “Animals who get their heads or necks stuck in litter can suffer severe injuries as they struggle to break free and can even suffocate, while others will slowly grow weaker and weaker as they try to hunt or find food or water.

“Others will get fishing line or netting cutting deep into their skin, affecting circulation and with wounds becoming seriously infected. These hazards can very quickly become a matter of life or death for these animals and action is urgently needed to tackle this problem head-on. It’s up to every one of us to do our bit in the war against litter.”

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Adam added: “The majority of anglers do dispose of their litter properly and it is frustrating that those who don’t possibly don’t realise how dangerous it is to animals. Discarded line in particular is a terrible hazard for wildlife, particularly as it can be almost invisible.

“We strongly urge those who enjoy fishing to be extra cautious to make sure nothing is left behind. Most anglers are very responsible when disposing of their litter, but it only takes one careless person to endanger the life of an animal. We ask that all those who enjoy fishing to follow the Angling Trust Take 5 campaign and make use of the recycling scheme to dispose of their waste tackle.

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“If members of the public see discarded litter we would encourage them to pick it up safely and put it in the bin, remembering to wash their hands after. Their action could save an animal’s life.”

If you’re concerned about the welfare of an anima, contact the RSPCA’s emergency hotline on 0300 1234 999.

County breakdown for England of calls to RSPCA in five years (2015-2019) related to angling litter and general litter:

County Angling litter General litter Total calls re angling and general litter 2015-2019
Bedfordshire 157 77 234
Berkshire 192 97 289
Bristol 60 57 117
Buckinghamshire 275 78 353
Cambridgeshire 358 123 481
Cheshire 435 111 546
Cornwall 312 93 405
Cumbria 216 51 257
Derbyshire 309 97 406
Devon 444 197 641
Dorset 301 115 416
Durham 181 91 272
East Yorkshire 168 54 222
East Sussex 174 116 290
Essex 463 227 690
Gloucestershire 166 100 266
Greater London 728 890 1618
Greater Manchester 663 243 906
Hampshire 566 180 746
Hertfordshire 253 143 396
Herefordshire 50 26 76
Isle of Wight 50 22 72
Kent 560 273 833
Lancashire 388 221 609
Leicestershire 231 90 321
Lincolnshire 443 103 546
Merseyside 562 144 706
Norfolk 700 167 867
North Yorkshire 304 111 415
Northamptonshire 180 70 250
Northumberland 74 31 105
Nottinghamshire 476 95 571
Oxfordshire 176 71 247
Rutland 9 2 11
Shropshire 224 40 264
Somerset 254 101 355
South Yorkshire 300 95 395
Staffordshire 543 115 658
Suffolk 194 83 277
Surrey 214 129 343
Tyne & Wear 234 126 360
Warwickshire 213 79 292
West Midlands 543 352 895
West Sussex 195 106 301
West Yorkshire 329 163 492
Wiltshire 183 59 242
Worcestershire 151 60 211
TOTAL ENGLAND 14,201 6074 20,275
Wales 827 384 1211
Area not listed 155 8 163
TOTAL ENGLAND & WALES 15,183 6,466 21,649

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By ashish

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