The Badger Trust welcomes the ITV News exposure of illegal fox hunting, having observed the devastating effects of related criminal attacks on badgers and their habitat. With sett interference the most reported criminal act to the Badger Trust, badgers and their setts have long been unrecognised victims of fox hunting.
Before the Hunting Act 2004, permitted activities included earth stopping and sett blocking. This was to prevent a fox 'going to ground' in a badger sett (at the time, an exemption to the Protection of Badgers Act 1992). Setts could only be lightly blocked – using a bag of straw or hazel faggots – and then later unblocked. These exemptions ceased when the Hunting Act came into force in February 2005.
The Badger Trust and other wildlife groups hoped to see the end of hunting-related badger sett interference when ‘trail hunting’ replaced hunting live animals for sport. With no legal reason to follow animals into a badger sett, why are they blocked? Yet there are still reports every year of badger sett blocking. Some setts are so heavily blocked with compacted soil that badgers unable to exit the sett can slowly suffocate. According to reports received by the Badger Trust reporting centre this is a national problem, not a few isolated cases or bad apples.
Sett blocking is not the only unlawful activity to take place. Digging into a badger sett to retrieve a fox and causing a dog to enter a sett still occurs. Sending terriers into active badger setts after a badger is contrary to both the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and the Hunting Act 2004. As there is no legitimate reason or exemption for these activities at an active badger sett, the Trust questions the need for terriers and so-called ‘terrier men’ on a trail hunt.
Badger Trust data show most badger sett interference occurs around the same time as the full fox hunting season from November to March. Sett blocking reports diminish from early spring each year until the following autumn.
Tris Pearce, Badger Trust Director, commented:
'Badgers remain one of the most persecuted of all species, despite having significant protection in law, and we know that crimes against badgers as currently reported are the tip of the iceberg.
The Badger Trust can only act on information reported to us, and we urge people to report badger crime and suspicious incidents. By understanding the true national situation we can continue our work to highlight the reality of the situation, and help stop these unlawful activities.'
How to report badger crime and suspicious incidents
If a badger crime or suspicious incident is in progress: