What counts as badger crime? How to stay within the law and best protect badgers

In Badger Trust’s recent National survey on public awareness of badger related issues, only 36% of participants claimed to be aware that badgers and their setts are protected by law.

The survey, conducted in collaboration with YouGov, sampled 1,676 British adults on badger related issues, including the controversial government-led badger cull and badger crime. With 64% of respondents either unaware or unsure of the legal protections afforded to badgers, it is little wonder that badger crime can often go unrecognised and therefore unreported.

The Protection of Badgers Act (1992) was a landmark achievement for badgers, providing the species with unrivalled protection amongst native British wildlife. Under the Protection of Badgers Act (1992,) it is illegal to harm, kill, or interfere with badgers or their setts, and failure to comply with the legislation can lead to six months imprisonment.

It is, however, clear from the survey results that greater awareness of badger crime is needed so that the public know how to protect badgers and their setts and stay within the boundaries of the law.

Accidental or ‘negligent’ badger crime

The most common badger crime reported to Badger Trust each year is sett interference, which covers any activity that disturbs a badger’s sett. For example, a dog off the lead in badger habitats may inadvertently damage, enter or otherwise interfere with a badger sett. In this case the dog’s owner would be legally responsible and could be prosecuted under the Protection of Badgers Act (1992). Therefore, it is vital that people act responsibly around badger setts; keeping dogs on leads and children supervised helps to ensure they won’t cause accidental damage to badger homes. These forms of sett interference are recognised as ‘negligent crimes’, and, whilst they may occur by accident, they are still an offence under the Protection of Badgers Act (1992).

Sett interference. Sett disturbance is the most reported criminal act to to Badger Trust.

Another common badger crime is accidental or intentional damage to badger setts during forestry, farming, and development activities. The Protection of Badgers Act (1992) applies in these cases too, and people involved are expected to know the law. For example, when applying for planning permission developers are expected to be aware of protected areas and species in the proposed development site. Therefore, badger sett blocking by developers, landowners and forestry workers is a criminal activity and must be reported to Badger Trust and the local police authority immediately.

If you suspect you have witnessed a negligent badger crime it is important to remember the three R’s: Recognise, Record, and Report it.