Norfolk bird breeder vows to carry on keeping birds despite wild bird conviction

A bird breeder in the Fens has vowed to carry on his 'lifelong hobby' despite being found guilty of wild bird charges.

Edward Easter, 71, was ordered to pay nearly �20,000 in fines and costs after providing no adequate evidence that the birds found at his home were legally bred in captivity.

Easter, who lives in Emneth, near Wisbech, was brought to court after two visits by the RSPCA in September 2009 and June last year which saw many of his birds seized.

The retired teacher had denied having a dead wild red-backed shrike, as well as a number of other live wild birds - including goldfinches, nightingales, skylarks, wagtails, stonechats, garden warblers and shrikes.

But despite the conviction, the 71-year-old said: 'This is a lifelong hobby. It is my passion and I love breeding birds.

'I think it's worthwhile hobby and it gives me a buzz so I will continue to keep birds.'

Easter said the unannounced visit from the RSPCA in 2009 came after he offered to re-home a few red-backed shrikes due to be destroyed.

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He continued: 'I left the offer with them because I really didn't want them to be destroyed and I care about the welfare of birds.

'I am known around here as the bird man and I told the RSPCA that I can look after the shrikes because I keep them and they have bred for me. But then a few weeks later I had a visit from the RSPCA and that is how this has all come about.

'Looking back, I wouldn't make that offer again and I regret even making the call in the first place.'

RSPCA inspector Carroll Lamport, who investigated Easter, has also spoken out following the sentence.

He said: 'This was the end of a very long and demanding investigation but it sends a clear message to those people who think they can get away with keeping birds that can't be proven to have been bred in captivity.

'The people who keep these types of birds are quite obsessed by their hobby and if they can get rare and difficult birds to breed then they get a lot of kudos.

'What we are finding is there is a closed circle of people who exchange, sell and trade these wild birds with a complete disregard for the legislation and all deals are done behind closed doors.'

Mr Lamport said the practice of 'no questions asked' between bird breeders remains rife in this region.

He continued: 'There is a stubbornness by these people who choose not to comply and those involved keep the birds for their own purposes rather than in the interests of animal welfare.

'They tell me they don't agree with the legislation but the truth is they need to acquire wild birds to replenish their stock of birds who are difficult to breed and keep.'

He added: 'We will continue to prosecute those who fail to prove their birds have been legally bred in captivity.'