Introduction – Below is a brief overview of the laws relating to badgers, as the Badgers Acts which have been passed by Parliament since its introduction are quite comprehensive. Badgers are supposedly fully ‘protected’ by law. This basically means that the handling of badgers is illegal unless a special license has been granted for the purpose, unless you’re part of a government body and give yourselves ‘Crown Immunity’!.
In 1973 the Badgers Act was passed by Parliament. This was amended by the wider ranging Wildlife and Countryside Act in 1981, which in turn was further amended in 1985.
The amendments were necessary because of existing loopholes. The Law is now consolidated in the Protection of Badgers Act of 1992 and essentially protects badgers from persecution and ill-treatment, whether intentional or not, and when caught digging a sett the onus is now on the defendants to prove their innocence rather than the prosecution having to prove their guilt. Previously many offenders were able to claim that they were digging for foxes or rabbits (which are both still legal activities) and that they didn’t know that they were digging at a badger sett. Now defendants have to prove that they were not digging for badgers which is a more difficult task, (this does not apply in Northern Ireland).
Crown Immunity – Even though the UK Government set up the Protection of Badger Act 1992, the government is claiming “crown immunity” from this legislation and has killed more badgers each year than any other individual or group in the UK for the past 33 years. This is typical of our government’s hypocrisy!
The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 – brief overview:
The original act protected the badger but not its home, the badger sett, but further legislation encompassed in the Protection of Badgers Act of 1992 makes it an offence to damage, destroy, obstruct access to an entrance of a badger sett, cause a dog to enter a sett, or disturb a badger when it is occupying a sett. There are certain exemptions relating to the blocking of badger sett entrances by fox hunts and strict conditions are laid down as to the manner in which this is carried out. DEFRA and English Nature (now Natural England) are the only authorities able to issue licences for various operations affecting badgers and their setts, such as housing developments, agriculture, forestry, ‘control’ of foxes etc. In addition, courts are now empowered to make an order for the destruction or disposal of a dog, or disqualify the offender from having custody of a dog, where a dog was used or present at the commission of an offence under S.1 or S.2 of the Badgers Act 1992.
a person is guilty of an offence if, he/she wilfully kills, injures or takes, a badger. Also anyone who has in his possession or under his control any dead badger or any part of a dead badger.
a person is guilty of an offence if they cruelly ill-treat a badger; or dig for a badger (except where permitted by the Act).
it is an offence to damage, destroy or obstruct a badger sett; to cause a dog to enter a badger sett; or to disturb a badger when it is occupying a badger sett.
it is an offence to sell or offer for sale a live badger or to possess a live badger.
anyone marking, ringing or tagging a badger (unless they have a licence) is guilty of an offence.
The only exceptions being; (a) Mercy killing, (b) Unavoidable killing as an incidental result of a lawful action or (c) Temporarily tending an injured badger.
For a full copy of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, write to:
HMSO Publications Centre, PO Box 276, London SW8 5DT
Bern Convention – All badger culls do breach the Bern Convention in our opinion. The Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats is Europe’s most important wildlife treaty. The badger is listed as a protected species on Appendix III of the Bern Convention because its numbers are low in most European countries and Britain is an important stronghold. The killing of badgers in some areas means that there will be local extinction of badgers.
Also, the government state that badgers would rapidly recolonise following the killing. This totally contradicts all scientific evidence, with much of the research being carried out by DEFRA themselves! Their research has shown that badgers will take a long time to recolonise. In the Thornbury ‘experiment’ back in the 1970s, MAFF repeatedly killed badgers over a five year period over an area of 100km² (which is very similar to the RBCT killing regime). The government’s own report stated that recolonisation was slow and badgers did not start to recolonise the entire area until 8 years after the killing stopped. Also, 11 years after the killing stopped about half the setts still remained unoccupied.
We believe that the Bern Convention has been influenced far more by political pressure than by science or the principles of nature conservation and that respective governments hide behind the lie of ‘scientific research’.