WILDLIFE artist Robert Fuller has received an award from the RSPCA for outstanding bravery after he helped bring a gang of badger baiters to account.

The Ryedale-based artist and Gazette & Herald columnist was presented with the Elsie M J Evans award at the RSPCA’s annual honours ceremony in Horsham, West Sussex, by celebrated birdwatcher Bill Oddie.

The Elsie Evans award is issued annually in recognition of an act of ‘outstanding kindness or bravery’ towards animals.

It marks the wildlife artist’s role last year in bringing seven badger baiters to trial in the most significant case of its kind.

Four of the men were sentenced to four months in prison.

Mr Fuller, whose art gallery is in Thixendale, was out photographing wildlife for his paintings when he stumbled across the gang as they urged their dogs to tear apart three badgers, including a pregnant sow.

It was his quick action in calling the police to the scene and staying to photograph the culprits as their dogs tortured the protected animals that provided the key evidence in the subsequent trial.

“I knew that badger baiting took place but it didn’t really hit home until I saw it with my own eyes. I was very shocked. This took place in broad daylight by a public footpath on a Sunday afternoon,” said Mr Fuller.

“The local police acted very quickly. They took the problem seriously and these men were brought to justice. People in the countryside need to work together to tackle rural crime.”

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said Mr Fuller’s skills as a photographer had helped secure a conviction for a terrible act of badger baiting.

“The award was given to Robert Fuller for bravery and for the vital help given to the RSPCA in prosecuting one of the most significant cases of badger baiting in decades,” they added.