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The Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) and the Northern Ireland Badger Group (NIBG) are expanding their Operation Brockwatch initiative after successfully protecting six well established Badger families targeted by criminal gangs over previous years. 

During year one of the project the Brockwatch team worked in partnership with landowners and the PSNI to first of all pinpoint the Badger setts and then monitored them very closely to protect them from further persecution. The team have now identified a number of additional vulnerable setts that they will be monitoring closely over the second year of Operation Brockwatch.

A Badger at its Sett.

   

 Brendan Mullan, USPCA Chief Executive said “We want to thank the landowners and the PSNI who have joined with us in a very effective rural partnership to stop this horrendous cruelty to both Badgers and Dogs.  We have been keeping a very close eye on a number of Badger setts previously disturbed relentlessly and we will be watching even more setts over the coming months. We are asking everyone who spends time in our wonderful countryside to be vigilant and support Operation Brockwatch by reporting Badger persecution without hesitation.  Our advice is simple, if you see suspicious activity in the vicinity of a Badger sett then ring the PSNI or Crimestoppers as quickly as possible and provide them with timely and accurate information so those involved can be apprehended at the scene of the crime or close by.”   

 Rebecca Millar, NIBG chair commented, “We have been delighted with the success of the pilot. These passive nocturnal animals live in tight family units called clans and we are so glad that we have been able to work together to help protect the badgers and their setts that are sometimes hundreds of years old! We know from the video footage we have collected over the past year that these threatened Badgers are currently thriving due to the added level of protection the Brockwatch team have put in place. We look forward to bringing even more setts under the Operation Brockwatch umbrella during the coming winter “

Members of the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime with their published report.

Brendan explained, “We never forget why we set up Operation Brockwatch in the first place. Badger Baiting is premeditated cruelty at its very worst, it is a shocking and sickening spectacle and is happening in every county in Northern Ireland. The sad reality is that Badgers are snared or cage trapped for clandestine baiting contests held at secret locations as well as being dug from their setts or lamped when foraging to satisfy the blood lust of the wildlife criminals. These activities all take place under the radar. The dogs they force to engage with the badgers inevitability endure merciless suffering with horrific injuries commonplace. If a dog fails to meet their depraved owner’s expectations, they suffer the same fate as the Badger, a torturous death.”

He continued “The criminals often travel long distances to very rural locations to commit their crimes, mainly but not exclusively, on Sundays. The Baiters also 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.”

Rebecca concluded, “Those involved in Badger Persecution are also steeped in many other criminal activities, Badger Baiting is their weekend hobby. The USPCA and NI Badger Group are appealing to all landowners to not only keep a watchful eye for suspicious activity but to secure gates that give vehicles access to their land. This not only helps wildlife but also reduces the risk of farm theft and helps 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 all too few and the sentences currently handed down on conviction are totally inadequate to act as a deterrent.”

Closing a loophole

The USPCA and the NI Badger Group will offer all assistance to help all the relevant agencies to vigorously pursue and prosecute those involved in this vile cruelty to both badgers and dogs. The extremely cruel practice of digging out foxes is inexplicably still legal in Northern Ireland despite being banned in GB and this practice has very close links to badger persecution and provides a loophole for the Baiters, this loophole must be closed. 

Reporting the Wildlife Criminals 

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. The public’s vigilance and help can assist the PSNI address this appalling abuse of animals that stains our countryside.

  • Do not approach the people involved, draw attention to yourself or put yourself in danger.
  • If possible, record the numbers involved and their precise locality.
  • Are dogs being used? 
  • Note the registration number, colour, make and model of vehicles.

NI badger crime remains widespread, the updated PAW NI badger report reveals. 

A report highlighting the disturbance of badgers and destruction their setts in Northern Ireland has stated, there were one hundred fifty-five (155) incidents concerning potential crimes against badgers reported to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) during the period 2016-18.  Published by the “Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime - Northern Ireland” (PAW NI) the report reveals these offences were categorised as incidents which may have constituted wildlife crime, including incidents of sett disturbance; suspected badger baiting; or misuse of traps and snares.

Wildlife crime incidents against badgers in 2016-18 had a wide geographic distribution throughout Northern Ireland.  However, most reports were made within county Down and county Antrim. 

Dr Jon Lees, Northern Ireland Environment Agency – Wildlife Officer and Chair of the PAW NI Badger Subgroup said; “Around 50 incidents of crime against badgers are reported annually, but as with other wildlife crime we suspect this is not the full picture and many more occurrences may be going unrecorded.  Incidents of badger baiting for ‘sport’ are unfortunately still occurring in across Northern Ireland in the 21st century.  Additionally wilful or careless destruction of sett structures by landowners or their agents is causing death and distress to the animals”. 

“Should members of the public suspect that a Wildlife Crime has been committed, we strongly advise people to report it to the PSNI by dialling Tel 101; describing the call as a Wildlife Crime report; giving details of the (potential) crime; and asking for an incident reference number.  Alternatively, information can be left anonymously with Crimestoppers NI at 0800 555 111”. 

It is widely believed that badger-related wildlife crime, like all wildlife crime, is under-reported in Northern Ireland.  The report aims to help inform the public to discern what constitutes a badger crime, which may increase future reporting.

Supt. Brian Kee, Police Service of Northern Ireland Service Lead for Rural and Wildlife Crime for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said, “The Police Service of Northern Ireland take wildlife crime very seriously and will investigate if there is a breach in the legislation. In Northern Ireland Badgers and their setts are protected under the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985 (as amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (NI) 2011.

“In brief the law states: By being listed on Schedule 5 the badger cannot be intentionally killed, injured or taken. No person can possess or control a live or dead badger or part derived from one. The sett cannot be destroyed, damaged or have the access by badgers obstructed. It is also an offence to damage or destroy anything which conceals or protects a badger or to disturb a badger whilst it is occupying one.”

The full report is available to read or download at WWW.WILDLIFECRIMENI.ORG 

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