A DEER was killed after a gang of ‘sick thugs’ set lurchers on it.

Police said the animal was attacked on fields near Goose House Lane, Darwen.

A horrified witness said he saw the deer being chased by dogs and then savaged.

The attack has been branded ‘disgusting’ and ‘cruel’ by community leaders and animal charities.

The RSPCA were called and found that the deer was dead.

But the animal’s body was removed by the gang before police officers were able to attend.

Lancashire Constabulary’s wildlife officer Mark Thomas said: “A group of six or seven men set lurchers on the deer and the dogs killed it.

“According to a witness, someone has come back on a motorbike and taken it away, with the animal being dragged along behind.

“There are a lot of deer in the area and I have no doubt they will be targeted again.”

An RSPCA spokeswoman said: “The incident was reported by someone at Lucite International in Goose House Lane.

“A passer-by had seen the deer stood up against the fence with blood pouring from its neck.”

The cruel nature of the killing, which happened at around 6pm on Monday, was slammed by the North West chairman of the British Deer Society, Peter Robson.

He said: “There is a lot of cruelty involved when the dogs chase a deer, biting into it and dragging it to the ground.

“At first a dog will most likely have grabbed it from behind and the second dog will run round the front to drag it down.

“With these cases you often see a lot of damage to the deer round the back. It is suffering quite a bit.

“The British Deer Society has an ongoing nationwide campaign to clamp down on poaching.

“But it is up to the people locally to report it to the police.”

Sudell councillor Roy Davies said he was appalled.

He said: “It is absolutely unbelievable. Who would want to do that to such a lovely animal?

“Deer are beautiful creatures. But nothing surprises me in Darwen these days.

“You do your best for people in the town and it just gets thrown back in your face.”

“It is disgusting. It is as if we have gone back hundreds of years to Robin Hood times.”

Darwen Town Council mayor and Sudell councillor Paul Browne said: “What are these people doing?

“They are sick thugs. I cannot understand the mentality of people.

“We have no control over society any more. What we need is more discipline.”

The incident came as Lancashire Police said it had launched an operation to tackle poaching in the county which had been increasing.

Pc Thomas said: “Recently we have raided four addresses and arrested four people, as well as seizing equipment.

“A lot more people are aware of what is going on now so we get more phoning it in to us.”

Pc Thomas said it was important that police dealt with the poaching problem.

He said: “A lot of people when they go out poaching are often scoping out farm buildings and outhouses as well.

“They never come back empty handed. They take diesil or tractors and if they see a deer on their way back then they will take it.

“They are often linked to organised crime and travel a lot, which makes them harder to catch.

“We really do want to nip this in the bud.”

Farmer Michael Heys, a Cliviger and Worsthorne ward councillor, said: “We have had a number of incidents like this in the countryside around here.

“Usually they have two dogs, one to bring the deer down and the other to kill it.

“This is not being done for meat or for hunting purposes now, it is purely barbaric and for people’s enjoyment.”