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Image: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Three in court over badger baiting

The bloodsport is illegal in the UK and Ireland, but what is it? And who does it?
Apr 30th 2012, 1:01 PM 5,469 37

THREE MEN HAVE appeared before a court in Co Down today after they were arrested by PSNI officers on suspicion of animal cruelty.

The men, aged 19, 21 and 42 have been charged with animal cruelty offences concerning the unnecessary suffering of a terrier dog and a badger. They have also been accused of interfering with a badger sett.

The BBC reports that the men were ordered by the judge to desist from hunting activities and to maintain a 9pm-7am curfew. A fourth man due in court could not attend for medical reasons.

The arrests were made in connection with the UK-wide Operation Meles, which aims to disrupt badger baiting activities.

What is badger baiting?

Badger baiting is a bloodsport in which badgers are hunted from their setts and pitched against dogs in a fight. It usually ends with the death of the badger, though the dogs can sustain serious injuries in the fight.

Sometimes, baiters cause serious damage to the badger by crippling it or breaking its jaws to prevent injury to the dogs.

Badger baiting is illegal in the UK and in the Republic of Ireland, and it is illegal to interfere with a badger sett.

Baiting is quite widespread across Northern Ireland, with thousands of badgers being killed this way ever year, according to David Wilson of the USPCA.

“The people who are involved and doing the damage are generally criminal gangs from urban situations who go out into the environment,” Wilson told TheJournal.ie. “Badgers are strange creatures: they will stay with a sett for hundreds of years and for generations, so they’re not hard to find. These people will open the setts a bit with spades and sent small dogs down to seize the badgers.

“They don’t even care about the danger to their dogs. Badgers are extremely powerful animals and some of the injuries on the dogs are beyond life-threatening – they just have to be put to sleep.”

He said that anyone who suspects badger baiting is happening should contact the police immediately.

Culling

There is a badger cull in place in the Republic of Ireland as part of the Department of Agriculture’s efforts to tackle TB in cattle. However, some researchers say there is little evidence of culling having an effect in the eradication of bovine TB.

Conn Flynn of the Irish Wildlife Trust told TheJournal.ie that a 12-year study in the UK found that culling badgers has no significant contribution to cutting the level of bovine TB. Instead, culling can force the highly-territorial animals to flee and spread into other areas, potentially spreading the disease.

The study found that cattle measures are the best way of controlling the disease, but there are restrictions on vaccination cattle due to export regulations.

Flynn says that a study is underway in Ireland to examine the effects of the oral vaccination of badgers.

He also says that tackling badger baiting is very difficult for gardaí, but that it happens all over the state and the Trust has received a number of reports of baiting in Meath and Offaly in particular.

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Susan Ryan

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