Badgers have been persecuted in Britain for centuries. Badger-baiting (a wildlife crime involving setting dogs on badgers for ‘sport’) was once far more widespread than now but sadly it still takes place (see here and here), and this is the principal justification for their protection in law.
Badgers are now fully protected and so are their setts: a sett is legally defined as “any structure or place which displays signs indicating current use by a badger”.
As well as being persecuted by criminals, Badgers and their setts are also threatened by legitimate activities such as the construction and use of roads, industry, new housing, forestry operations and agricultural practices. These activities are not necessarily incompatible with the continued presence of badgers, provided the special needs of the animals are properly addressed and measures taken to incorporate these requirements into planning proposals (eg forestry operations should not be carried out within 20 metres of a sett, and generally foresters will tape off a sett to ensure this).
Licences may be granted to kill badgers under certain circumstances (for example licences may be issued to control bovine tb or for development), but generally it is illegal to harm them in any way.
Any incident involving badgers is likely to be a crime.
Let’s help protect Badgers
Under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, in England and Wales (the law is basically the same in Scotland (as amended by the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004) and in Northern Ireland) it is an offence to:
- Wilfully kill, injure or take a badger (or attempt to do so).
- Cruelly ill-treat a badger.
- Dig for a badger.
- Use badger tongs in the course of killing, taking or attempting to kill a badger.
- Intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy a badger sett, or obstruct access to it.
- Cause a dog to enter a badger sett.
- Disturb a badger when it is occupying a sett.
- Use gas to kill a badger in its sett.
- Sell or offer for sale a live badger or to possess a live badger.
- Mark, ring or tag a badger without a licence.
- Catch/trap a badger in a snare (or any form of trap without a licence from Natural England).
- >Note that in Scotland if any of the above resulted from a person being reckless, even if they had no intention of committing the offence, their action would still be considered an offence.
Badgers and their setts are also protected under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, which rules that it is an offence to disturb badgers or obstruct access to their place of refuge, or destroy or damage anything which conceals or protects their place of refuge.
We all want to help stop cruelty to badgers but please note that many of the people involved in eg badger baiting have links to other forms of crime and they are renowned for aggression and violence. Never attempt to tackle badger baiters yourself.
- If you do see someone committing a crime involving badgers take as many photographs as you can. Recording the offender’s face is important of course, but their clothing, the bags they’re carrying, the equipment they’re using are all important too.
Do NOT try to get too close – taking some long-distance images is better than having a camera smashed or being attacked and hurt.
- If it is safe to do so note any relevant car registration plates.
- Note the location as accurately as possible, preferably using a grid reference (free smartphone apps are widely available). If the crime is in an urban area note the address or any other recognisable description of the location.
- If in the countryside take wide angle photographs of any landmarks (a tree, a distinctive fenceline, a hill) that might help officers relocate the crime scene. Imagine we were trying to find the same site again – what information might we need?
- If you see badger baiting or any crime taking place do NOT approach the participants – if a crime is in progress call 999. Give details as requested, and ask for a crime reference number. If the event is finished then call 101 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
- England and Wales – RSPCA Cruelty line 0300 1234 999
- Scotland – Scottish SPCA Animal Helpline 03000 999 999
- Northern Ireland – USPCA Animal Information Line 028 3025 1000, caller ID required
Call an animal welfare charity:
In England and Wales Badger Trust records all illegal acts against the Protection of Badgers Act: this is to inform the police and the authorities of the extent of badger crime, and adds to the gathering of intelligence.
If you find a dead badger in either England or Wales please use this page on the Badger Trust website to report it. If you witness a crime against a badger please also call Badger Trust on 08458 287878.
Scottish Badgers is a charity founded in 1999 which brings together individuals and groups from across Scotland to promote the study, conservation and protection of Scotland’s badgers, their setts and natural habitats. It cooperates closely with Badger Trust.
Page updated December 2015
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