Ferret fans in a Staffordshire village have set a new world record for keeping the sharp-toothed animals down their trousers - despite coming under fire for alleged cruelty.
Retired head teacher Frank Bartlett, who set the new record for the traditional sport of ferret legging along with fellow villager Christine Farnsworth, said accusations of putting the animals under unnecessary stress and discomfort as "ludicrous." They kept their ferrets down their trousers for 5hr 30min in Whittington yesterday to break a record.
The existing time of 5hr 26min was set by former Barnsley miner Reg Mellor in 1981.
Frank, aged 67, organised yesterday's event to raise funds for Whittington Community First Responders at the village's Bell Inn, near Lichfield, and made £1,000.
The event came under fire from the Derbyshire-based National Ferret School. Its director James McKay made an official complaint to the RSPCA.
Mr Bartlett, a former parish councillor and head of Park School, Tamworth, met an RSPCA inspector before undertaking the stunt and assured him that if the animal showed any sign of distress it would immediately be released.
White Fang, a rescue animal, is one of two ferrets kept by Frank.
"She is a gentle little girl. The very baggy trousers I used had been used by my ferrets for a bed for the last couple of weeks.
"They like nothing better than a dark warm tunnel. They usually curl up and fall asleep once they find themselves safe.
"We carefully constructed the rules so there was no suggestion of any distress to any animal," said Frank, who is chairman and co-ordinator of the ambulance first response group.
The rules of the contest included wearing no underwear with trousers loose enough "to allow easy ferret access between the legs.".
Trousers had to be belted at the waist and tied at the ankles and male entrants 'whose families are not yet complete', had to have written permission from their partner.