Ulster officers took action against blood sports enthusiasts following a Sunday Times investigation
An international network of badger baiters has been exposed following an under-cover investigation by The Sunday Times.
The inquiry, run in conjunction with the Ulster Society (for the) Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA), prompted a series of police raids yesterday on the homes of blood sports enthusiasts in Ulster. Six dogs, including three pit bull-type terriers, were seized at one location in Co Armagh. More raids are planned for today.
Authorities in the republic are unable to mount similar raids on the homes of badger baiters identified in the six-month investigation. There is no provision in Irish legislation to allow the seizure of abused animals from private property.
Until now, the existence of organised badger baiting was considered something of an urban myth.
But a Sunday Times journalist infiltrated an international blood sports network operating between Ireland, Britain, France and America.
Dog breeders were secretly recorded offering to sell terriers that had been bred specially to bait badgers. Footage of wild badgers being dug from their setts and baited in Co Down was also obtained.
The inquiry also uncovered a lucrative trade in terriers used in the illegal blood sport. A prized fighting terrier exported from Ireland to America last January was sold for €10,000.
The investigation has prompted renewed calls on the government to introduce further legislation to protect animals and to stop illegal blood sports. Stephen Philpott, the USPCA’s chief executive, said the joint investigation revealed that badger baiting was a more organised pastime than previously thought.
He said the network may have thought it was untouchable, but the information gathered during the investigation would enable police and USPCA inspectors to raid homes and kennels. “We have identified the people behind this bloodsport in Ireland and their cohorts in Europe and further afield,” he said.
Badger baiting networks have traditionally proved difficult to penetrate due to the secrecy involved in the underground sport, which involves pitting fighting terriers against badgers, a protected species.
Orla Aungier, a spokeswoman for the Dublin SPCA (DSPCA), said her organisation was powerless to take action. “We are currently dealing with a legislative fiasco whereby the authorities cannot take any action to seize dogs from people involved in this type of crime because gardai cannot enter property and seize animals that have been ill-treated,” she said.