BADGER PERSECUTION IN THE UK
Badgers have a long history of cruelty and persecution in the UK spanning hundreds of years. To this day badgers remain one of the most persecuted of all species despite having one of the highest level of protection in law. From blood sports to development concerns, thousands of badgers become the victims of wildlife crimes each year.
In 1992, the Protection of Badgers Act gave badgers across the UK unrivalled protection due to the sheer volume of cruelty and interference with both badgers and badgers setts. The National Federation of Badger Groups (precursor to the Badger Trust), were instrumental in bringing this legislation into fruition.
Despite their unrivalled protection, thousands of badgers every year across the UK meet horrific fates due to both the barbaric acts of cruelty and illegal use of machinery in otherwise legal activities such as development and farming. The most prevalent wildlife crimes involving badgers include: sett interference, development related, farming related, land clearance, shooting, badger baiting, poisoning, trapping, and gassing.
WHAT IS THE LAW?
Badgers and their setts are legally protected from intentional cruelty and from the results of lawful human activities. The legislation, The Protection of Badgers Act 1992, has provided badgers with unrivalled protection under the law. Despite this, thousands continue to be injured and killed illegally each year.
The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 outlines the protection badgers receive under the law and the exceptions. Details of the Act can be found here.
Badgers are also protected under Schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which can be found here.
Depending on the situation the Animal Welfare Act, Abandonment of Animals, Wild Mammals Protection Act, and the Hunting Act may be considered.
LATEST CAMPAIGN NEWS
The Badger Trust is providing training to police forces across England and Wales. Since 2017 we have trained 30 forces.
The Badger Trust and Naturewatch Foundation have also produced a publication, ‘The Persecution of Badgers: A Guide for Investigators in England and Wales.’
OFFICER & TRAINER
Craig Fellowes is a retired police wildlife crime officer, having served 31 years and worked with wildlife crime incidents since 1984. Craig has dealt with a wide variety of wildlife incidents relating to badgers, birds, bats, poachers, dog fighting, hunting with dogs, and the illegal trade in endangered species.
COLLATING BADGER CRIMES
In addition to alerting authorities, the most important thing you can do is report all suspicious crime incidents to the Badger Trust. The Badger Trust has a dedicated team that monitors, responds, and tracks badger related wildlife crime across England and Wales.
The Badger Trust joined talks at Downing Street with the Prime Ministers Special Adviser on the Environment in order to discuss UK wildlife crime recording and enforcement. Current sentencing is not a real deterrent, a potential sentence of up to 6 months is not working, and on good behaviour offenders serve only a few months. Sentences for offences involving cruelty and suffering need to be increased.
ABOUT THE COURSES
We are on a mission to #stopbadgercrime
Badger crime is prolific in all areas of the country with crimes from badger baiting to sett blocking remaining prevalent long after the Protection of Badgers Act was established. We receive hundreds of reports every year of wildlife crimes that involve badgers. It is estimated that over 30,000 badgers every year fall victim to wildlife crime, despite having one of the highest levels of protection under the law.
In 2019 alone we have trained 10 police forces with 4 more in the works.
CASE STUDY: OUR TRAINING IN ACTION
Humberside Police took part in our National Badger Crime Awareness course in 2017. Not long after, they were faced with a horrific case of badger baiting. Two of the dogs were left with serious injuries, one of which was even heavily pregnant. Humberside Police responded and made 4 arrests at the scene. Thanks to Humberside Police’ swift action, all of the men involved were found guilty and sentenced to the maximum term of six months in jail.
A Humberside Police Wildlife Crime Officer stated…
"In responding to the initial call made to the police, several members of staff attended the scene. Two of the officers had undertaken the National Wildlife Crime course with two of them having also completed the 1 day national badger course. One member of staff Police Community Support Officer Steve Lynch was immediately able to identify the tunnel entrances, excavated spoil, and identify other signs such as well-defined runs definitive signs and that the structure the offenders were digging into as a badger sett. Through Steve’s knowledge he was able to highlight the evidence to other officers also attending and was able to show the need for the males to be arrested, and all evidence secured including the dogs present.
He was instrumental in ensuring the area of the sett was treated as a crime scene and that any disturbance or interference should be undertaken only in respect of gathering evidence for the investigation as per our Class Licence, this was bearing in mind two terriers were still within the sett and there were of course concerns for their welfare.
Due to both Steve and PS Andrew Beadmans prior training they were pivotal in ensuring the relevant offences were identified from the outset and that the investigation was carried out accordingly.
The story given by the offenders at the time could easily have been believed by officers who have had no training or knowledge of wildlife crime and allowed the males to either carry on or leave the scene as persons lawfully ratting with permission where their dogs had ran off and entered some rabbit holes."
"The story given by the offenders at the time could easily have been believed by officers who have had no training or knowledge of wildlife crime"
POLICE TRAINING Q&A
Q: Why don't police pay for this training themselves?
Police forces across the country have had their budgets slashed in recent years. Wildlife Crime Units are often one of the most underfunded units. While you can petition the government to increase police spending, this likely wont have an immediate effect. Our training has been credited in recent success stories. The faster we can roll out this training to as many police forces as possible, the better we can protect our wildlife.
Q: Why is this training so important?
Wildlife crime has remained a prominent issue facing badgers and causes a staggering number of badger deaths each year. Yet very few end up being brought to justice. Outdoor crime scenes are especially difficult. We aim to ensure that police officers arriving on the scene know how to identify a badger sett and evidence of badger crime.
The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 allows for licences to be issued for a number of purposes, including and to prevent serious damage to property.
Such licences can allow the interference with, and/or closure of setts. Other purposes for which licences may be granted are science, education and conservation; zoos; tagging and marking; archaeology; disease prevention; agriculture and forestry; land drainage; and controlling foxes for the protection of livestock, game and wildlife.
In some cases, licences are issued to allow the killing of badgers, although this is generally a last resort and only a handful of such licences are issued each year.
More information and license applications can be found here.