Statistics released by the RSPCA today show a shocking rise in reports of badger crime to Britain’s biggest animal welfare charity. Reports of badger sett interference have more than doubled in the past five years, while the number of calls reporting badger digging or baiting leapt from 56 in 2008 to 89 last year.
The RSPCA received 166 reports of badger sett interference from members of the public in 2009, compared to 74 in 2004. This saddening rise indicates badger crime is still rife in the English and Welsh countryside, despite badger digging being banned in 1973 and badger baiting – where dogs are pitted against a badger – being banned as long ago as 1835.
The statistics are unveiled in the latest RSPCA podcast in which chief inspector Ian Briggs, from the charity’s special operations unit, discusses badger crime and what is being done to bring those responsible to justice.
He said: “The badger isn’t an endangered animal. What it is, is a massively persecuted animal. These people get some sick enjoyment from going out and killing these animals for no reason. They are not performing any kind of pest control. They do it because they like to pit their dogs against what they see as Britain’s toughest mammal.”
Badger digging is done to find, and usually kill, badgers. The animals are seen by some as a nuisance. Others do it as a sport, purely for their own entertainment. It was banned in 1973, and can also lead to badger baiting.
“Certain areas of the public may have sympathy for them, particularly out in the farming community and see them as doing a service, but that is not true. These people are doing it for themselves. They are not doing it as a service for the rural community,” added Ian.
Diggers are usually accompanied by terrier-type dogs, specifically trained for the task of entering a badger’s sett. The dogs search below the ground to discover the badger and will corner the animal when they find it. The diggers will be alerted to the position of the badger either by the dogs barking or, more recently, via a radio transmitter.
They then dig down to the tunnel, in a bid to remove the badger. Once the diggers reach the badger they will try to remove it, probably via its tail. They can then either kill the animal, or keep it for badger baiting. Killing is usually done by shooting, bludgeoning with a spade or throwing the badger to waiting dogs.
Reports of badger crime to the RSPCA 2004 – 2009:
Incidents reported by the public 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Badger Digging/Baiting 81 72 66 52 56 89
Badger Sett interference 74 59 74 98 95 166
Successfull Convictions 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Protection of Badgers Act 1992 4 14 3 7 22 11