Badger Trust has deep concerns about the potential impact on the ability to survey, rescue and protect wildlife if government proposals to criminalise trespass are adopted. It joins other wildlife groups and organisations in urging the government not to make trespass a criminal offence and to focus instead on making our green spaces more accessible.
The charity has identified potentially negative impacts to badgers and those who protect them and their habitats. It calls on badger activists to write to their MPs to raise these concerns:
1. Badger rescue
Where a volunteer or paid wildlife rescue worker is called to an injured or trapped badger and is unable to determine or find the landowner in a timely fashion (where the landowner isn't the caller). On entering the land or property for the welfare of the animal concerned, they could be committing a criminal offence.
This hugely limits survey in large areas of access land where previously badger group volunteers have had right of access and would not ordinarily have sought landowner permission. Not only does this limit the ability to understand where badgers are in local areas, but also limits the capacity to discover and record badger related crime, particularly as such areas often have high levels of wildlife persecution.
3. Crime Prevention, intervention and investigation
With fewer members of law-abiding public in countryside areas, criminals are less likely to be challenged whilst carrying out offences such as sett digging or blocking, sett interference, lamping, and all crimes that are less likely to be detected. These also include poisoning and illegal snaring.
As a general point, if trespass becomes a criminal offence the cost of litigation moves from the landowner to the public purse. Currently trespass is a civil offence, with action brought by the landowner.
Jo Bates-Keegan, Chair of Badger Trust, commented:
‘We have seen how valuable the outdoors and wildlife is to all of us during the pandemic. Rather than restrict access to the countryside further, we would like to see 'Freedom to Roam' introduced in England as it is in Scotland and much of Europe.
Instead of criminalising minority groups and individuals with a love of the countryside, surely we should be encouraging more people to get outside and learn about our ecology and wildlife responsibly, whilst improving our countries' physical and mental health at the same time.’
Act now – how to raise your concerns
Parliament is scheduled to debate a petition on this matter (originally scheduled for 25 January 2021, but now delayed). The Badger Trust asks its many thousands of supporters and followers to write to their MPs to raise these concerns, and to urge their MP to attend the debate to represent their views.
The Badger Trust has tips on how to write to your MP, including how to find your local MP.
The Badger Trust relies on your support to continue our work to enhance the welfare, conservation and protection of badgers, their setts and their habitats. We are stronger together – join the Badger Trust to help us carry on our vital campaign work, support our local Badger Groups and keep our badger crime reporting centre open.