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.
Stopping Badger Crime film
Our short film, Stopping Badger Crime, aims to raise public awareness of crimes against badgers and encourage reporting. Presented by naturalist and broadcaster Mike Dilger, the hard-hitting film reveals the different methods used to persecute badgers, how to recognise the signs, and shows how recording and reporting badger crime helps investigators bring offenders to justice.
WARNING: contains distressing content
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.
Wildlife crime has remained a prominent issue facing badgers and causes a large number of badger deaths each year. Very few end up being brought to justice, with outdoor crime scenes especially difficult. Badger Trust training for police forces in England and Wales aims to ensure that police officers arriving on the scene know how to identify a badger sett and evidence of badger crime.
The Badger Trust has provided training to police forces across England and Wales since 2017 and has been credited in recent success stories.
The Badger Trust and Naturewatch Foundation have now produced a publication, ‘The Persecution of Badgers: A Guide for Investigators in England and Wales.’
The guide aims to outline the legislation currently in place to protect badgers in England and Wales, and to provide guidance to police forces regarding best practice in the investigation of crimes against badgers and the enforcement of the law.
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 badger 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 won't 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 badger 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.
Under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, it is an offence to damage, destroy or block access to a badger sett, or to disturb badgers in their setts. Sett disturbance is the most reported criminal act to the Badger Trust. It comes in many forms and can fall under the category of both malicious and negligent crimes.
Snares have been used for centuries as a way of capturing wild animals; most often for the eventual killing. A snare is a wire noose that captures an animal around the neck with the intention to immobilise. While snares are not illegal, the intentional snaring of a badger is illegal. The Badger Trust campaigns to end the use of snaring.
Unless under licence (ie. culling) the shooting of badgers is illegal. Lamping is a night-time activity that is often linked with the illegal shooting of badgers.
Lamping involves the use of a high powered spotlight to transfix the animal and then either shoot or use dogs to kill them.
In modern times, badger baiting has come into popularity among blood sport fans. In badger baiting terriers are typically involved in the digging and are sent into badger setts with radio collars to locate the badgers. The signal from the radio collar is then tracked from above and the group will dig down into the sett to locate the badgers.
Once the badger has been captured the real horror begins. It will then be forced to fight with large, powerful dogs. During these fights, it is not uncommon for there to be two or more dogs in the ring with the badger. Once the badger has been overpowered by the dogs it is usually either killed by the dogs or beaten to death by the offenders. It is the strength, courage, and family loyalty of the badger that ensures it continues to be a target.
Badgers are not the only victims of badger baiting. The dogs used in the fighting are also innocent victims. They suffer horrific injuries and are often not taken to a vet for treatment. Instead offenders either treat the dog themselves, abandon, or kill the dog if they are too badly injured and puts the owner at risk of prosecution for cruelty.
Sett interference: Forestry, farming and development
Operations within woodlands may come into conflict with badgers and their setts. Felling, the removal of timber, developments, cultivation, and quarrying, if carried out near a badger sett, may risk an offence under the Protection of Badgers Act.
Restricting or avoiding operations near to badger setts is the best way to avoid damage or disturbance. However, where work is to be carried out near to a badger sett it is suggested that a 20-metre protection zone is put in place around the sett, from each entrance. This aims to protect the underground tunnels from risk of collapse. Where work within the 20-metre protection zone is deemed unavoidable, a license may be needed. Any works carried out near to a badger sett during the breeding season (December to June) may also require a license from the appropriate Licensing authority (Natural England, Natural Resources Wales).
Much the same as for forestry, agricultural operations carried out in the vicinity of a badger sett may also need a license. Ploughing and the harvesting of crops are the most common cases where offences are committed. A protection zone of 30 metres is suggested as a guideline to avoid damage or disturbance to the badgers and their sett(s). Ploughing is also usually limited to a depth of 30cm to avoid damaging the structure of the sett.
Under the Town and County Planning Act, 1990, development is defined as “...the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land.” When applying for planning permission, developers are expected to be aware of protected areas and species where the development proposes to take place.
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.
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REPORT BADGER PERSECUTION
Recording and reporting badger crime helps investigators bring offenders to justice.