Three men plead guilty to interfering with a badger sett in a case that left a terrier in need of veterinary attention. 


ATTEMPTING TO BAIT BADGERS

Scarborough Magistrates Court issued fines to three men from Castleford, West Yorkshire, on 6 May after they plead guilty to interfering with a badger sett. The courts gave Jamie Lee Davies, Nathaniel James Holmes and Brandon Reece fines of £428, £252 and £656 respectively.

The incident occurred on Boxing Day 2019. A member of the public found the three men in private woodland near Church Fenton, North Yorkshire. The group had five dogs and spades with them. The member of the public alerted both the landowner and police. A North Yorkshire Police officer stopping the three men as they were leaving the area and seized their car along with four dogs. Meanwhile, the landowner checked the woodland and found three spades as well as a badly injured terrier.

A statement by North Yorkshire Police said the terrier was “sitting close to a known badger sett” and that it called an expert witness in to verify the sett was active. And it quotes a rural wildlife crime officer as saying that the three men were attempting to engage in the “abhorrent ‘sport’” of badger baiting.

The injured terrier was taken to a vet and treated for injuries consistent with badger baiting before being rehomed.


PROTECTED BUT PERSECUTED

Badger baiting was first proscribed in 1835 by the Cruelty to Animals Act, making it one of the earliest bloodsports to have been made illegal in England. And the creatures were given even greater legal status by the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

However, badger baiting continues. Animal welfare organisation Naturewatch Foundation reports that in 2019 there were 598 reports of crimes against badgers. And it said “Sett interference and baiting/fighting accounted for 70.28%” of these reports. Also in 2019, BBC Wales exposed a group of badger baiters in an undercover investigation. 

Naturewatch Foundation additionally notes that 31.2% of reports were related to sett blocking for the purposes of hunting. This is a reminder that terrier work for badger baiting is closely tied to the activities of terriermen during fox hunts. In one instance, a terrierman and a master of the Dwyryd Hunt were jailed in 2018 for badger baiting.


HOW YOU CAN HELP

Badger baiting and sett interference are cruel, harmful acts that will cause serious distress and death to badgers. Anyone walking in rural areas may come across signs of baiting and other forms of persecution.

Giving advice on what to look out for, Paul Russel of Derbyshire Rural Crime Team asked people to:

help us by reporting anyone they see walking in woodland areas with dogs and carrying spades or acting suspiciously. 

Also, if you see bright lights at night-time in areas where there are badger setts, it is possible illegal activity could be taking place.

The Derbyshire Police website provides further information. In addition to notifying the police, you may also want to tip off your local hunt saboteurs group and local badger protection group.

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