USPCA & NI Badger Group Address Criminality & Cruelty Involved in Badger Persecution.

The Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty to the Animals (USPCA) and the Northern Ireland Badger Group (NIBG) are appealing to the public, especially landowners, to report suspected Badger Persecution to either the PSNI or Crimestoppers in a timely and accurate manner.

Peter Clarke, Chair of the NI Badger Group, said, “Despite these passive, nocturnal animals and their setts being fully protected by law, they are still being targeted relentlessly by criminal gangs who roam our countryside at will. The USPCA and the NI Badger Group receive reports of such activity from across the province and these provide a clear picture of the shocking scale of this abuse. All such reports are immediately relayed to PSNI.

There are no winners, only losers in badger persecution.”

Brendan Mullan, Chief Executive of the USPCA, explained, “The badgers are snared or cage trapped for clandestine baiting contests held at secret locations and are also dug from their setts or lamped when foraging to satisfy the blood lust of these criminals.

The dogs they employ to corner and capture badgers inevitability endure merciless suffering with lower jaws commonly rent asunder. Other flesh wounds are crudely stitched without any veterinary expertise and dogs that fail to meet expectations are themselves slaughtered without mercy.”

The criminals involved seem to be aware of the location of virtually every badger sett in Northern Ireland and Sunday is their favoured day. They target pregnant or lactating badgers during January and February as mothers will fight to the death, irrespective of the odds, in an inevitably vain attempt to protect their cubs.

Whilst perpetrators are extremely secretive and cunning, they are not invisible and will often use the excuse that they are retrieving lost dogs or hunting for foxes. The extremely cruel practice of digging out foxes is inexplicably still legal in Northern Ireland despite being banned in GB and has very close links to badger persecution.

When on farms, it is also likely that the perpetrators are on the lookout for other criminal opportunities such as the theft of equipment or livestock. The USPCA and NI Badger Group are appealing to landowners to not only keep a watchful eye on suspicious activity but to secure gates that give access to their land. This affords some protection to wildlife whilst reducing the risk of theft and helping ensure vital bio-security protection.

Northern Ireland currently has the toughest animal welfare legislation in Europe with maximum five-year custodial sentences available to the Courts, life bans from keeping animals and fines of up to £20,000 can also be imposed. But prosecutions are few and the sentences handed down on conviction are not an adequate deterrent.

The USPCA and the NI Badger Group are calling on all the relevant agencies to vigorously pursue and prosecute those involved in this vile cruelty to both badgers and dogs. When prosecuted in England and Wales those involved are generally put behind bars and are handed lengthy bans. We want to see the same approach adopted in Northern Ireland. When the public witness more successful prosecutions and the judiciary stepping up to the mark with appropriate and tougher sentencing, they will report this criminal activity with much greater willingness.

Members of the public who witness ongoing sett disturbance should immediately call 999 to report the crime giving PSNI an opportunity to apprehend wrongdoers. If the motives of strangers seen in the locality seem suspicious the PSNI non-emergency line 101 will assist. Anyone uneasy at contacting the authorities directly can use Crimestoppers by dialling 0800 555 111. Your vigilance and help can assist the PSNI address this appalling abuse of animals that stains our countryside. The USPCA and NI Badger Group appreciate your help.”