Concern over 'barbaric' badger baiting and persecution


Despite being outlawed in the 19th Century, badger baiting and the associated persecution of the animals remains a problem in the UK.

Police and wildlife groups have condemned the "barbaric" practice, in which the animals' setts are dug up and they are forced to fight with dogs.

Under the law, it is an offence to kill, injure or capture a badger, or to interfere with its sett.

But despite this, the practice of the illegal blood sport continues.

On Monday, three men were convicted of interfering with a badger sett in East Yorkshire.

Terry Murry, 47, and Shaun Chapman, 29, both from Hull, and Gary Douglas, 40, of Great Bridgeford, Staffordshire, were given 12-week suspended jail sentences and ordered to pay £2,000 each in costs.

'Trophy hunting'

Jack Reedy, spokesman for The Badger Trust, said they believed that cases of persecution were at a "disturbingly high level".

The organisation is working with crime and other wildlife agencies to compile a database in order to determine the scale and extent of the crimes.

Mr Reedy said those involved in badger baiting and persecution were often associated with other criminality, such as theft and robbery and often operated in gangs.

He added that the motivations included "trophy hunting", where animal parts were kept as souvenirs, and setting up fights between badgers and dogs for people to bet on.

"Badgers are fearful and will only fight when threatened into a corner.

"Anecdotal evidence suggests that it [badger baiting] is widespread and prevalent."

Wildlife deterrent consultant John Bryant said badger baiting was a "pure blood sport", resulting in the suffering and often the deaths of the animals involved.

"I spoke to someone involved in this who admitted to me he was addicted to the violence and the drama," he added.

"It the deliberate torture of an animal. Some people must have a sadistic streak and get pleasure from watching it. It's horrendous, it's an underworld."

He added that some farmers believed badgers were responsible for spreading tuberculosis to their animals and may "look the other way" if people asked to use their land, on the pretence of hunting rabbits, when in fact they were seeking out badgers.

Mr Bryant said the killing of badgers remained an illegal act, regardless of the circumstances.

Valerie Reeves, of the East Yorkshire Badger Protection Group, said: "Often we hear that the badgers are injured in some way, to maim them so they are not able to fight properly.

"And people call this sport? It's just unbelievable to people like myself who love animals."

Sgt Dave Jenkins, of Humberside Police, said the practice would not be tolerated in East Yorkshire.

"It's one of the most barbaric wildlife crimes there is."

There are thought to be between 300,000 and 400,000 badgers in the UK.

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