Badger cull to be extended into Dorset, government announces

The badger cull is to be extended into Dorset following pilots in Gloucestershire and Somerset, the government has announced.

Ministers and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) say culling badgers will curb tuberculosis (TB) in cattle, but protesters say it has little effect.

Licences have been granted to allow six weeks of continuous culling in the three counties until 31 January.

Rock star and campaigner Brian May said he would fight the culls in court.

His Save Me Trust trust confirmed the "lawfulness of the decisions to issue the licences will be challenged by a Judicial Review in the High Court".

May, well-known for his anti-cull protesting, said: "We are all hugely disappointed that the government has decided to continue its cull policy, despite Natural England’s scientific advisor branding the badger cull ‘an epic failure’."

He added: "The badger cull has been a disaster…worse still, it’s certain that most of the murdered badgers are perfectly healthy, and free of bovine TB.

"This awful policy must be put to bed now, in favour of a policy that really will address the TB problem in cattle."

Wildlife TV broadcasters Chris Packham and Steve Backshall have also voiced opposition to the cull.

Defending the move, farming minister George Eustice, said: "England has the highest incidence of TB in Europe and that is why we [are] taking strong action to deliver our 25-year strategy to eradicate the disease and protect the future of our dairy and beef industries.

"This includes strengthening cattle testing and movement controls, vaccinating badgers in the buffer zone around high-risk areas and culling badgers where the disease is rife."

The NFU has also welcomed the move but said it was "much slower progress than we wanted to see" and called for culling in more areas.
Badger cull targets

Dorset – Minimum 615, maximum 835

Gloucestershire – Minimum 265, maximum 679 – last year minimum 615, maximum 1,091 (actual culled 274)

Somerset – Minimum 55, maximum 524 – last year minimum 316, maximum 785 (actual culled 341)

Source: Natural England

Analysis of the 2013 pilot culls, commissioned by Defra and by an independent panel of experts, found shooting badgers was not effective.

Official figures showed it cost more than £3,300 for each badger that was killed during the cull in 2014.

Other plans announced by the government include a consultation on compulsory testing for cattle entering low-risk areas, such as the north and east of England, to reduce the risk of new TB cases.

Views will also be sought on controlling TB in non-bovine animals such as pigs, goats and deer.

The move to extend the cull to Dorset has been condemned by the Dorset Wildlife Trust.

Chief executive, Simon Cripps, said: "We are extremely disappointed because science has shown that culling is unlikely to work and will probably make matters worse.

"Scientific tests have shown that diseased and non-diseased badgers will move into areas that badgers have been removed from. So what you get is a stirring of the population and a potential increase in the disease.

"The best way to sort this out is bio-security, to manage your farm so that you keep badgers away from the cattle you feed. Some of the worst outbreaks are where bio-security isn’t very good, that accounts for up to 60% of the problem."

A vaccination program has already started in a "buffer zone" around the cull areas but the government believes this alone is not enough and stronger measures are also needed.

Andy Foot, a Dorset beef and arable farmer, said: "It is to be congratulated that we at last got it rolled out to at least another county.

"We have to get on top of this devastating disease that is killing so many cattle.

"Yes do vaccination but in the correct area, where there is no disease. Vaccination will not work in an already infected animal."

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Dogs killed after foxhounds and spaniel run onto A47 in Peterborough

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Two dogs have died after a pack foxhounds broke off from their morning walk and chased another dog onto the A47 in Peterborough.

The animals were spotted on the eastbound carriageway near the Bretton/Thorpe Wood junction at about 7.40am this morning (Tuesday, August 25).

A Cambridgeshire Police spokesman said officers went to the scene and controlled traffic, but it appeared that two dogs had been killed.

It later emerged that the dogs had come from the nearby Milton Park. The foxhounds belonged to the Fitzwilliam Hunt.

A spokesman for the Milton Hall estate, where the hunt has its kennels, said: “At approximately 7.30am this morning the Fitzwilliam foxhounds were being walked through Milton Park to meet the hunt horses prior to the start of daily hound exercise. At the same time a spaniel and retriever were unexpectedly being walked in the same area of the park.

“A small group of hounds broke away from the main pack and together with the spaniel ran through an area of woodland onto the eastbound carriageway of the A47. Regrettably the spaniel and a foxhound were killed by a passing car unable to take evasive action.

“The police attended the scene. So far as we are aware no-one was injured but one vehicle was damaged in this unfortunate and regrettable incident.”

The road was blocked while the rest of the foxhounds were rounded up. The police spokesman said the road was cleared just before 9am.
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Scottish gamekeeper convicted of killing buzzard

4th August 2015

The long-running case against Scottish gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick concluded today with a conviction for illegally killing a buzzard.

Dick, 25, of Whitehill Cottages, Kirkmahoe, Dumfries, had been observed by two witnesses on the Newlands Estate shooting a buzzard, stamping on it and then striking it with a rock in April last year. He had denied the charges (in addition to two alleged firearms offences, which were subsequently dropped) but was convicted today at Dumfries Sheriff Court.

He will be sentenced in early September.

Well done to the SSPCA and Police Scotland for their investigation and to the Crown Office for a successful prosecution.

We understand that a vicarious liability prosecution will get underway at Dumfries Sheriff Court later this month.

The Newlands Estate offers driven partridge and driven pheasant shooting. This estate has previously donated to the GWCT’s Scottish Auction (see here – page 23).

While we wait for the sentencing hearing, here are some questions you might like to ask:

1. Is/was Dick a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association? Emails to: info

2. Is Dick still employed on the Newlands Estate? Emails to: awbd

3. Is the Newlands Estate a member of Scottish Land & Estates? They get a mention in the SLE’s 2013 newsletter (info

The photograph of Billy Dick was sourced from his Facebook page.

Previous blogs on this case here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here

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Do you know these thugs?

Look: Can you identify four suspects wanted for interview following Boxing Day fox hunt protestor assault at Jack O’Mitre pub in Scammonden?

To look at the images click the following link –

30 July 2015

Pictures have been released of suspects wanted over an alleged attack at a Boxing Day hunt.

Four men are still wanted for questioning in relation to the 2014 incident that occurred during a Colne Valley Beagles hunt meet at the Jack O’ Mitre pub at Scammonden. The images have been taken from “video footage gained from one of twelve protesters from a local wing of the national organisation Hunt Saboteurs, who were present on the day to monitor a supposed rabbit and trail hunt.

The video purportedly shows two hunt saboteurs being dragged out of their van before being assaulted by a group of several people, which resulted in one victim having two teeth knocked out.

The hunt meet was then abandoned when West Yorkshire Police attended the scene.

Officers later said that only one male was being investigated over the incident.

Kirklees Rural PC Angela Lister, who is based at Holmfirth Police Station, said that she hopes that the images will encourage people who know them to come forward.

She said: “So far we have interview four people over the assaults but none have been arrested.

“We still have four suspects outstanding, one being a main player according to video footage taken from the scene.

“I have been in touch with the Crown Prosecution Service who want the file on the case sending to them.

“It contains the footage taken by the hunt saboteurs which is quite damning.

“I would urge anyone with any information about those pictured to get in touch to help us with our enquiries.”

Commenting on the incident to the Examiner back in December, James Swanbury, senior joint master of the Colne Valley Beagles denied that any of the club’s members or supporters had been involved.

He said: “I’m aware that an incident took place but am sure that no hunt members of the group or supporters were involved – it was somebody else.

“I’m very upset about it.”

Anyone with any information about those pictured should call the police on 101.

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Five charged in connection with hare coursing in Barnham

Monday 03 August 2015

Four men and a teenage boy have been charged in connection with hare coursing in Barnham last week.

Police were called at 11am on Friday (July 31) to reports of people hunting with dogs in a field close to Bury Road.

Officers arrested five people on suspicion of hare coursing and took them to the Bury St Edmunds Police Investigation Centre for questioning.

They have since been charged with daytime trespass by five or more in pursuit of game.

Their details are as follows:

Tony Baker, 21, of Butts Field, Hailsham, East Sussex; Abraham Baker, 22, of Ridgeway, Dartford, Kent; Tommylee Beaney, 18, of West Wood Road, Stockbury, Sittingbourne, Kent; Obie Harber, 21, of Bletchenden Road, Headcorn, Ashford, Kent; and a 16-year-old boy, from near Ashford, Kent, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

They have all been released on police bail to appear at Bury Magistrates’ Court on September 7.

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Five arrested in connection with hare coursing in Barnham

31 July 2015

Five people have been arrested in connection with hare coursing in Barnham this morning.

Police were called at 11am to reports of persons believed to be hunting with dogs in a field close to Bury Road.

Officers attended the scene and arrested five people on suspicion of hare coursing: a 21-year-old man from Hailsham, East Sussex; a 22-year-old man from Dartford, Kent; an 18-year-old man from near Sittingbourne, Kent; a 21-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy, both from near Ashford, Kent.

They have all been taken to Bury St Edmunds Police Investigation Centre for questioning.

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Not such a Glorious Twelfth: Should driven grouse-shooting be banned?

The season for red grouse-shooting is about to begin. But its driven form, where beaters flush birds towards the guns, is having a terrible impact on the environment and on other birdlife, to the cost of every nature-lover and taxpayer. Mark Avery, former conservation director of the RSPB, explains why this most unsporting sport should be banned

Monday 27 July 2015

With the imminent opening of the red grouse shooting season on the "Glorious Twelfth" of August we are likely to hear the usual voices saying that this peculiarly British activity is a traditional field sport. Yet, generally, it isn’t very traditional and it isn’t very sporting. Driven grouse shooting is coming under increasing scrutiny from both an economic and ecological point of view and from both policy makers and the general public. So how long can it continue?

The wild red grouse lives in the heather-clad hills of the British uplands – it is the UK variety of a species also known as the willow grouse or willow ptarmigan which lives in Scandinavia, Russia, Canada and the USA. It’s a hardy bird which lives in the hills all year round and in the UK eats a diet predominantly of heather shoots. This is the bird that adorns the label of Famous Grouse whisky and features in amusing television adverts in the run-up to Christmas.

In many parts of the world grouse are hunted – they represent sizeable packages of protein – and predominantly this hunting consists of walking across the hills and shooting at grouse that are flushed by your presence as they fly away. This form of shooting, walked-up shooting, often with trained dogs, pointers or setters, was the main way that grouse were shot until the invention of the breech-loading shotgun made reloading your firearm much easier, and bigger "bags" of grouse more feasible. Instead of going to the grouse in walked-up shooting, driven shooting requires the men with the guns to wait in a line of small shelters, called butts, for a distant line of "beaters" to walk across the moorland and flush the grouse towards them.

Those who oppose all field sports, in whose number I do not include myself, say that driven grouse shooting would only be sporting if the grouse were armed, too. However, a look back in time shows that this form of the sport wasn’t favoured by many keen adherents of field sports in its early years.

Traditionalists decried the unsporting nature of driven shooting, where the shooter was not remotely a hunter of grouse but a mere recipient of a mass of live targets provided by the sweat and activity of the beaters. Instead of the ability to walk over rough terrain, read the ground, train your dogs and then work with them to find and shoot down a few grouse in a day – maybe 20 birds but often many fewer for a day’s exercise in the hills – driven grouse shooting allowed someone who was merely a good shot, but who lacked the broader skills of understanding the habitat, to kill many more birds.

Those who do it describe driven grouse shooting as one of the greatest thrills available Those who do it describe driven grouse shooting as one of the greatest thrills available (Alamy) Driven grouse shooting probably developed independently on several estates, but Sir Walter Spencer-Stanhope, who owned moors in the Yorkshire part of the Peak District, is generally regarded as the first or an early adopter. He wrote that there were frequent criticisms of the practice in the newspapers of the time until the Dukes of Devonshire and Rutland also began driven grouse shooting. And when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert bought Balmoral as a shooting estate, the popularity of driven grouse shooting was assured.

Driven grouse shooting, at great expense, is now seen as the norm, and the activity has so much snob-value attached to it that it is now become the thing to do, and to be seen to be doing, among many of the moneyed classes. There are landowners who still prefer a day or two’s walked-up shooting each season – but, when they can sell a day’s driven grouse shooting for upwards of £30,000 to a party of six to eight "guns", it’s not really a luxury they can afford to indulge.

Those who do it describe driven grouse shooting as one of the greatest thrills available. As the grouse fly over the butts they are like arrows streaking through the sky, flying at high speed and capable of changing direction in an instant. There are birds everywhere, the sound of gunfire from other butts is exhilarating, and to down each bird requires some skill. It’s a few minutes of hectic activity, with the loaders and shooters working in harmony and then there is the calm after the storm when the dead grouse are retrieved, any injured birds dispatched and the totals are counted for that drive. Driven grouse shooting is said to be at its most exciting when the birds come thick and fast – and at the end of such a drive the body count can be enormous.

In Victorian times, the bags were sometimes spectacular. A party of six guns shot more than 2,000 red grouse on Wemmergill Moor in Yorkshire on 20 August 1872, with the first shot fired at 8.20am and the last around 12 hours later. Sir Frederick Milbank was responsible for a good third of these birds himself. On 30 August 1888, Lord Walsingham had a remarkable day when he killed 1,070 grouse on Blubberhouses Moor in Yorkshire (at a kill-rate of 70 per cent kills to shots). He was the only shooter, using three guns and two loaders, and was further assisted by 40 beaters in two teams. They all got off to an early start at 5.12am, with the first of 20 drives of the moor, the last of which finished at 6.45pm. The most successful drive was the 16th of the day, when his lordship shot 94 grouse in 21 minutes – that’s one every 13 seconds – and there was no sign that he was tiring physically of the effort, nor emotionally at the level of killing. In fact, the last 14 kills were made on his walk home.

Abbeystead in Lancashire, now owned by the Duke of Westminster, still holds the record for the biggest grouse bag in a day – 2,929 birds, by eight guns, on 12 August 1915. And if the slaughter is now more modest – with most dead birds genuinely reaching the dining tables of hotels and restaurants, unlike the poor pheasants that sometimes end up as landfill – such large bags of birds are still only possible through intensive land management.

For the love of game: driven grouse shooting before the war For the love of game: driven grouse shooting before the war (Getty) Red grouse are not reared and released like many pheasants and partridge, but their hills are managed by teams of gamekeepers to maximise the number of birds available at the beginning of the shooting season. The heather is burned, on a rotation of perhaps a dozen years, in order to create a patchwork of old heather (good for shelter and nesting) and young heather (better to eat), wet areas are drained (as heather doesn’t do well in sodden soils) and natural predators are killed both legally (foxes, crows, stoats, etc) and too often, illegally (hen harriers, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, etc). The high densities of red grouse may make them more prone to disease, particularly from parasitic worms, and piles of medicated grit are left on the moors, every few hundred yards, for the birds to peck at to reduce such losses. By late July each shooting estate will have counted their grouse and know whether it is a good year or not, and will be planning their shooting days between 12 August and 10 December.

That, then, is the history of driven grouse shooting, an activity practiced by the rich and traditional in our hills for about 150 years. But now it is seeing something of a resurgence, with the widespread use of medicated grit reducing losses to disease and a supply of foreign hunters and moneyed City gents wanting to try their hand at it. It’s not how I would want to spend a day, and I don’t have the money to contemplate it; still, in the big scheme of things, we could write it off as a bizarre British pastime practiced by a few men in tweed up in the hills. However, it’s too much of a menace for that – and grouse shooting is under increasing pressure.

I first got involved in the debate over grouse shooting many years ago, when I worked for the RSPB. The illegal persecution of birds of prey on some shooting estates is a serious conservation problem in the UK. The hen harrier, a ground-nesting buzzard-like bird, is particularly affected as it lives on moors and does eat red grouse. Scientists have calculated that there is enough habitat in the UK for there to be 2,600 pairs (including over 300 in England), and yet there are only 600-800 (and four pairs last year in England). Golden eagles and peregrines are also known, from decent scientific studies, to be rare or absent from grouse-shooting areas of the country, to have low breeding success and to be persecuted too. Many of us look at the hills of northern England and south and east Scotland as an enormous extended wildlife crime scene.

When writing of the hen harrier in his 1958 book Grouse: Shooting and Moor Management, Richard Waddington, a grouse moor owner from Scotland, described the hen harrier as "a nasty bird of evil habits. It quarters the moor a few feet above the ground and pounces on grouse or chicks it catches unawares. It must be got rid of at all cost. Whenever I see a hen harrier I regret that pole traps have been made illegal." Such sentiments are rarely as honestly or forthrightly voiced these days, but there are many who practice grouse shooting who would nod in agreement when they read those words, and too many who still act in accordance with them.

Nature lovers, birdwatchers, ramblers and many others are losing patience with the failure of governments to tackle wildlife crime on shooting estates. Last year, a series of events were arranged on "Hen Harrier Day" where hundreds of people joined rallies to protest at wildlife crime. This year there are more planned, with the biggest rally likely to be in the Goyt Valley in Derbyshire on Sunday 9 August (yes, a few days ahead of the start of the grouse-shooting season) where television presenter, photographer and naturalist Chris Packham will address the crowds. A new organisation, Birders Against Wildlife Crime, has also emerged, focusing on just these issues.

It is certainly the case that birds of prey eat grouse, and a long-term scientific study at Langholm in the Scottish Borders in the 1990s established, beyond any doubt, that hen harriers in particular can be sufficiently unsporting that they eat enough grouse during the summer to make big bags of grouse economically unviable in the shooting season. The conflict between conserving top predators such as eagles, and a day’s grouse shooting, is a real one.

But while discussions over how to square this circle – how can shooting continue if it depends on killing protected wildlife? – have gone on for years, the circle has not and cannot be squared. It’s ecology banging up against economic interests, and the grouse shooters have been unwilling to give an inch.

Still, things are moving on. Although wildlife crime will always be a very serious charge, one that grouse shooting as an industry will have to answer, the wider sustainability of the sport is now under scrutiny. The intensive management that is needed for large grouse bags is now known to damage protected habitats such as blanket bogs, increase greenhouse gas emissions, pollute water supplies and possibly lead to increased flood risks downstream of the hills. In a recent report, the Committee on Climate Change wrote: "The damaging practice of burning peat to increase grouse yields continues, including on internationally protected sites," which is just the type of attention that an industry does not need.

I’ve come to the view that the faults and ills of driven grouse shooting are systemic. They can’t be remedied by a bit of tinkering, because they are so integral to the system. A sport which is all about killing large numbers of gamebirds cannot tolerate natural predation, which is why legal predator control is unremitting on shooting estates and why birds of prey are still too often shot, poisoned or trapped – despite having full legal protection for more than 60 years. That’s one circle that can’t be squared.

What’s more, the intensive habitat management that is required so that the few can shoot lots of grouse for sport puts up the water bills, increases home insurance costs and adds to the problems of climate change for the many who never go shooting and have never seen a red grouse. Policy makers will not tolerate an unsustainable land use which damages ecosystem services and delivers very little economic benefit to the country.

And economic benefit has been a card overplayed by the shooting industry as a whole. Industry figures suggest that all shooting including target shooting is worth £2bn per annum to the economy – but these figures have been challenged by economists working with the League Against Cruel Sports who think that the figures are exaggerated about fourfold. Grouse shooting will be a small proportion of the total shooting income, and in any case these figures don’t take into account the costs of ecosystem damage that are borne by the taxpayer and water consumer. And they don’t take into account the loss of natural beauty when many of our hills are devoid of hen harriers and other protected wildlife species that are the victims of wildlife crime.

As a self-confessed wishy-washy liberal, it has taken me years of trying to find a compromise to the conflicts intrinsic to the unsustainable and anti-social nature of driven grouse shooting before I came to my present view – that we should simply ban it.

Driven grouse shooting is a worthless, pointless so-called sport which could be tolerated if only it weren’t so environmentally damaging. The wider economic and ecological damage caused by intensive management of the hills for the sake of shooting a few grouse (or a lot of grouse) are intrinsic to the system. They can’t be fixed so let’s just put an end to a non-traditional, non-sporting traditional field sport. We should ban driven grouse shooting. And, if we must, walk on.

Mark Avery is an author and blogger and is a former conservation director of the RSPB. His latest book, ‘Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands’, is published by Bloomsbury on 30 July.

Mark Avery’s e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting can be found at
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Landowner denies claims he ran over hunt hound

July 22, 2015

An angry landowner ran over some harrier hounds in a lane and reversed at speed at some of the hunt’s horse riders, a court has been told.

Jonathon Wright-Watson also attacked a foot follower grabbing him by his neck and pulling him down an embankment, a jury was told.

But he claimed the hounds had run amok and trespassed on his land and that the riders were in a frenzy and attacking his vehicle with their riding crops.

Mr Edward Bailey, prosecuting, said the Dart Vale and South Pool harriers were on a Saturday morning hunt at Rolster Bridge near Harberton. Totnes two weeks before last Christmas.

He said 35 hounds, 20 horse riders and some 40 foot followers were involved in the hunt following a pre laid scented trail around surrounding countryside near Harberton in Devon.

Mr Bailey told Plymouth Crown Court: “Mr Wright-Watson exercised his right, which he is perfectly entitled to do so, to say that this local hunt would not have any permission to hunt over his land.”

The defendant said that any hounds or riders would be trespassing if they went on his land or property.

But, said the prosecutor: “This is exactly what appears to have happened during the course of that morning.”

Wright-Watson told police in interviews that he was at home with a female friend, some children and pets when he saw hounds on his land and ‘running amok’.

Mr Bailey said the defendant told police: “He was cross about this to say the least.”

One hound did not leave his property and he grabbed it and put it into the back of his Mitsubishi pick up vehicle and he drove off to find its owner.

Mr Bailey said: “He set off in a bad mood. He had been angered by this trespass. He was driving at speed.”

The jury heard one foot follower was Stanley Wreyford who was watching the hunt in the valley below when he heard a vehicle driving at speed towards him.

The jury heard he quickly clambered up a hedge as the vehicle came to an abrupt halt and Wright-Watson ‘grabbed him by the scruff of the neck around his shirt and jumper’.

Wright-Watson, 55, of Old Mill Leat, Harberton, Devon, then drove off .

Three hounds were in the middle of the lane – and the jury heard the defendant made no attempt to stop ‘and hit them and ran over one of the hounds’.

Bounty, a bitch, suffered a broken pelvis and hock ankle wound .

Shortly afterwards Wright-Watson got out of the pick up and grabbed the hound still in his boot. Mr Bailey said he held it by the ‘scruff of its neck, shook it and threw it to the ground’.

He then reversed at a group of riders in the lane – a scene caught on a follower’s mobile phone.

In police interview Wright-Watson said he was annoyed that the hounds had trespassed on his land.

But he said he drove down the lanes in first gear at 15mph and that Mr Wreyford slipped down the bank and he had put his arm out to prevent him falling over.

Mr Bailey said he ‘emphatically denied that he had run over the hounds or hit any of the hounds at all’.

He claimed that the riders were ‘in a frenzy and were hitting his vehicle with their riding crops’ and opening his boot to look inside.

He denies dangerous driving and assaulting Mr Wreyford by beating.

The trial continues.

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94% of Welsh cattle free from TB, chief vet says – BBC News


Various measures against the spread of TB in cattle are starting to show results, according to the chief veterinary officer for Wales.

But Prof Christianne Glossop said it was too early to determine the impact of the badger vaccination programmes in Pembrokeshire.

Speaking at the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, Powys, she said incidents of TB have fallen by 28%.

She added a 45% cut in animals being culled had left 94% of herds TB free.

‘TB is expensive’

The five-year vaccination programme has one year remaining, with results not expected for another two years.

Prof Glossop said that the cost of vaccination could be reduced by providing grants to farmers and landowners to carry out some of the labour work themselves.

She said: "TB is expensive. This year we’re spending £25m in Wales on cattle testing, on compensation to farmers, on breakdown management, on a new programme we’re rolling out to get private vets more involved in supporting their clients.

"So against that backdrop the notion that vaccinating badgers is expensive, it’s just one piece of the whole programme."

Prof Glossop added the most expensive part of vaccinating was labour – walking fields, finding the badgers and catching them.

"If the farmer could put in some of the labour, or the landowner, then actually some of that cost gets chopped away," she said.
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York man fined for trapping wild goldfinches

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Police in North Yorkshire have warned that the trapping of wild finches is a “a widespread problem in the UK” after catching a man using cage traps to capture protected birds.

Alan Smith, 59, of Clifton Caravan Site, Water Lane, York, has been fined after admitting eight wildlife offences at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court.

He was handed a six-month community order with a 10-day rehabilitation activity requirement, £100 fine, £85 costs, £60 victim surcharge and £150 criminal court charge.

According to North Yorkshire Police, Smith was caught out after Pc Graham Bilton, a wildlife crime officer, spotted a small twin-chambered wire cage trap at Gate Hemsley, near York.

The trap had been placed on top of a hedge and was actively set, and in one of the chambers was a male goldfinch.

Mr Bilton, who is also a Scarborough Police rural beat manager, said: “The purpose of the trap and bird is to attract other wild birds of the same species drawn by the visual presence and singing of the ‘call bird’ inside.

“Any other wild bird approaching then activates the trap door which springs shut.”

Officers seized the trap and bird, which was later identified as a recently-caught wild goldfinch. No-one was present at the site at the time but a note was made of the registration numbers of the vehicles present.

A few days later, on July 6, Mr Bilton visited another encampment in Scagglethorpe and recognised the same vehicles. He saw a cage trap of a similar design, was set on top of a hedge and containing another recently-caught wild male goldfinch. Both goldfinches were released back into the wild.

Smith, who was at the site, was arrested on suspicion of committing wildlife offences and charged with a total of eight offences, including possessing a wild bird, taking a wild bird, using a decoy to take a wild bird and using a trap to take a wild bird.

Mr Bilton said: “It is important that those responsible for committing wildlife crimes are brought to justice. This type of crime can have a dramatic effect on local fauna and flora, yet often go unreported and are difficult to investigate.

“The trapping, possession and sale of wild finches are all offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, but still remain a widespread problem in the UK.”

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