Badger persecution

Despite their unrivalled protection, thousands of badgers every year across the UK meet horrific fates due to both the barbaric acts of cruelty and illegal use of machinery in otherwise legal activities such as development and farming. 

The most prevalent wildlife crimes involving badgers include sett interference, development-related offences, farming-related offences, land clearance, shooting, badger baiting, poisoning, trapping and gassing.

Sett disturbance

You cannot disturb a badger sett without obtaining a licence.  If you do, you will be committing an offence.

Should your pet dog become lost down a badger sett the law states that the dog must be left for a 48-hour period before you can apply for a licence (via Natural England) to dig the dog out of the sett.  Before doing this, you should contact the local badger group, RSPCA or a police wildlife crime officer.

Badger baiting

Badger baiting involves the use of terrier-type dogs, to enter setts and locate badgers. These dogs will often have tracking devices on their collars and when they locate a badger the perpetrator will dig up the sett and remove the badger. The badger and dogs are then made to fight until one of them is killed.

Badger baiting was first made illegal in 1835 under the Cruelty to Animals Act.

Badgers have since been granted further protection by the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. 

Badger persecution has been classified as a priority since 2009 by the National Wildlife Crime Unit. 

Offences under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992

Badgers are one of very few animals to have legislation dedicated to their protection. This act makes it an offence to:

  • wilfully kill, injure or take, or attempt to kill, injure or take, a badger (S1).
  • have in possession or under control any dead badger or any part of, or anything derived from, a dead badger (S1(3)). 
  • dig for a badger, ill-treat a badger, use a firearm to kill or take badgers or use tongs to kill, take, attempt to kill or take a badger (S2).
  • interfere with a badger sett (S3). This includes damaging a sett, obstructing access, causing a dog to enter it or disturbing a badger while it is in the sett
  • possess a live badger, sell or offer to sell a live badger (S4).

Police powers

Where a constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting that a person is committing or has committed an offence under this act the constable may:

  • Stop and search the person and vehicle
  • Search any item in possession of that person
  • Seizure of evidence of articles liable to be forfeited

There is no power of entry but permission can be sought or a  warrant can be obtained in relation to some of the offences, under section 19(3) of the wildlife and countryside act 1981.

Offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Section 11

It is an offence to do any of the following if likely to cause injury to the badger:

  • Set a trap or snare to catch a badger.
  • Set any electrical device for stunning or killing a badger.
  • Use of any poisonous, poisoned or stupefying substance calculated to cause bodily injury to a badger.  This may include pesticides, rodenticides, cyanide crystals or even paracetamol.

Section 11 also makes it an offence to use, cause or permit any of the following for the purpose of taking or killing a badger:

  • Any automatic or semi-automatic weapon.
  • Any device for illuminating a target or sight device for night shooting.  This includes torches, lamps or night vision goggles or binoculars.
  • Any form of artificial light or any mirror or other dazzling device including torches and lamps.

Section 18(2)

Section 18(2) makes it is an offence to be in possession of any item that can be used to commit any of the previously mentioned offences. There should be an inference the items are being used for badger persecution.

  • Dogs.  Used for locating and attacking badgers. Patterdale terriers and other forms of terrier are typically used.
  • Tracking device.  Used for locating the dog when it enters the sett. It will include a collar and a hand set.
  • Tools.  Spades and crow bars for digging setts, hatchets for breaking roots, or badger tongs, used to pull badgers from setts, and sticks for prizing the badgers jaws open.
  • Other items such as vehicles, torches, night vision equipment, firearms, mobile phones (possibly used for filming offences).

Police powers

For offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 19(1) provides that a Constable who suspects with reasonable cause that a person has committed, or is committing an offence under this Act, may without warrant:

  • Stop and search that person
  • Search or examine any vehicle, animal or article which appears to belong to or be control or possession of that person
  • Seize any vehicle, animal or article which may be evidence in connection with the offence

Section 19(1) allows a Constable to enter land, but not a dwelling house, to exercise these powers including to arrest.

Hunting Act 2004

If the perpetrator is using a dog to pursue badgers, it is likely an offence is being committed under terms of the Hunting Act 2004.

  • Hunting a wild mammal with dogs.  Unless the hunting is exempt – such as hunting rats or rabbits (S1).
  • Knowingly permit land to be entered / used for hunting a wild mammal with dogs (S3(1)).
  • Knowingly permit dog to be used for hunting a wild mammal (S3(2)).

Police powers

Sections 7, 8 and 9 of the Hunting Act 2004 state that a constable who reasonably suspects that a person has committed or is committing an offence under this Act, may without warrant:

  • stop and search the suspect
  • stop and search the vehicle, animal or other thing which the suspect appears to be in possession or control
  • seize and detain a vehicle, animal or other thing

Section 8(5) allows a Constable to enter land, but not a dwelling house, to exercise these powers

Badger Persecution Priority Delivery Group (PDG)

The Badger Persecution PDG has a range of members and meets quarterly to tackle badger persecution across the UK.

They also publish a newsletter which you can find the latest and archived editions of on the National Wildlife Crime Unit website or through the links below:

More help and support

National Wildlife Crime Unit

29 Jun 21 12:34 PM

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