Badger Trust calls for an end to glaring sentencing inequality for crimes against badgers

Charity highlights sentencing gulf for badger and dog abuses as landmark legislation reaches 30 year anniversary

Badger Trust has today written an open letter to Defra Secretary of State, Rt Hon George Eustice MP, calling for a change to the sentencing options for crimes under the Protection of Badgers Act (1992) (‘PBA’). This would extend sentencing for badger crimes, such as badger baiting and shooting, from 6 months to 5 years, in line with the recent changes to the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021. Under the Animal Welfare Act, those committing the most serious animal cruelty crimes to a domestic animal in England and Wales can face prosecution with up to 5 years in prison. Similar animal cruelty committed against a wild badger can only be given a maximum of a 6-month prison sentence under the Protection of Badgers Act.

2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the Protection of Badgers Act (1992), a landmark piece of legislation in badger protection. During the three decades since the passing of the PBA, sentencing related to animal welfare has moved on, but it seems the Act is stuck in time, with a huge inequality now present.

Peter Hambly, Executive Director of Badger Trust, commented:

‘If someone was convicted for badger baiting, they could be given up to 5 years in prison for acts against welfare to the dogs involved, but only up to 6 months for cruelty to the badgers.

‘Under these crimes badgers face painful, horrific deaths. The lack of strength of prosecution in the Protection of Badgers Act is out of date with the government's move to recognise animal welfare and animal sentience in more animals.’

Peter continued: ‘The Protection of Badgers Act received Royal Assent 30 years ago, at a time when a 6-month prison sentence for badger cruelty was a landmark win for badgers. 30 years later we are launching our PBA30 campaign to get sentencing in line with the changes to broader animal welfare policy and laws.

‘It’s time those who commit these crimes against badgers are given the sentences they deserve.

‘Every week horrific badger persecution continues to take place across the country and we need to send a message out to these people to stop – proper sentencing would be a real deterrent. That’s why we’re urging the Secretary of State to support this call for tougher and fairer sentencing to protect these iconic native animals.’

Badger Trust is calling on the government to:

  • Extend the maximum sentence for convictions under the Protection of Badgers Act (1992) from 6 months to 5 years, bringing it into line with Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021. This means offenders would be faced with a 5-year sentence for the abuse of a badger, in the same way as they would for the abuse of a dog used in the same crime

  • Make wildlife crimes like badger persecution notifiable to the Home Office, so that the real level of this type of crime can be accurately assessed, reported on, and tackled. At present wildlife crimes are not recorded in this way, and there are no official national statistics. Increasing sentencing would, by default, make a crime under the Protection of Badgers Act (1992) a notifiable offence.

Badger Trust is calling for the inconsistency in how the law protects different animals to be urgently addressed, removing the current sentencing inequality for those convicted of the most serious badger cruelty crimes.

Badger crime is currently not a notifiable offence, which means that whilst crimes are reported to the police and investigated, they are not reported to the Home Office. As a result there is no way of knowing the true extent of badger persecution crimes, despite reports to Badger Trust’s own Wildlife Crime Unit that this goes on every week across England and Wales. Extending the maximum sentencing for cruelty to badgers from 6 months to 5 years would, by default, make badger crime a notifiable offence, meaning that reported badger crime is properly measured for the first time.