Northern Ireland

Countryside Alliance sued after hunting dogs killed 59 racing pigeons

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe High Court in Belfast was told up to 15 hounds broke into privately-owned pigeon lofts and aviaries and attacked highly sought after homing pigeons

A pigeon fancier who lost 59 racing pigeons after hunting dogs strayed onto his property and killed the birds is to receive more than £60,000 in damages.

Maurice Weir told a court he witnessed a "bloodbath" when hounds from a local hunt club attacked the birds on his land in Loughgall, County Armagh.

He sued the Countryside Alliance over the intrusion by the Kinnego Grange and Canary Hunt Club's dogs in 2009.

The judge rejected defence arguments that Mr Weir had fabricated the claim.

Giving evidence to the High Court in Belfast, Mr Weir described how he emerged from having lunch on 7 February, 2009 to discover "a bloodbath" on his Kinnego Road property, with dead and injured birds lying on the ground and in dogs' mouths.

He said up to 15 hounds had broken into his pigeon lofts and aviaries and attacked highly sought after homing pigeons, some who could make their way back to Northern Ireland from France,

He had been planning to use the birds to set up a small stud business and sought damages for the killing of his pigeons, consequential loss, the cost of repairing his aviaries and a further payout for distress and injury to feelings.

His barrister claimed the hunters were negligent in failing to control their dogs.

Lawyers for the Countryside Alliance claimed that no hounds from the hunt came into contact with the birds on the day in question, but the judge ruled that that Mr Weir was an honest witness whose account was corroborated by others at the scene.

She ruled that the hounds had been on his property, gained entry to the lofts and aviaries and, on the balance of probabilities, killed the pigeons.

She awarded him £59,580 in damages and £2,500 for distress and injury to feelings.

"To these figures will be added the appropriate interest on general and special damages together with costs," the judge ruled.

The Countryside Alliance has six weeks to decide if it wants to appeal the verdict.