We have had a query a couple of days ago from a lady who
has had a problem with a badger coming through the cat flap and eating cat food
in the kitchen. Whilst we normally keep our replies confidential, we thought
people might like to read a bit more about what the query was about and how we
I’m hoping you can help me with either some practical
advice or the number of someone who can solve my worrying badger issue.
I’ve had a badger coming into my home for roughly 8 weeks
now, via the cat flap. He’s terrified my cats and my house rabbits, completely
destroyed my cat flap and rips and knocks down the barricade every night. He
wasn’t aggressive at first and came in at 9pm a few times, but now he’s
growling. I have 4 children in the house as well as several pets that I need to
protect, and nobody will help me. The badger trust just laughed at the badger
strolling into the house every night and said it was after cat food, but it’s
going for the bin, not the cat food. If I remove the bin, I’m worried it’ll go
for the rabbits who are in the next room, and I’m very concerned that it’ll go
for my son if he disturbs it when he comes downstairs early. The badger has also
created some very sharp edges on the outside frame of my door where the cat flap
hole is, and as he’s squeezing in, I’m worried he’ll hurt himself if he hasn’t
already. There must be someone who can come and get him, and move him to a sett
where he’s safer, surely? I have 3 cats who are now so stressed by this, they’re
messing in my house. My adult rabbits are so stressed that one is alerting us
all night and as they’re large animals it’s not possible to move them to another
room. I’m quite desperate now. I’ve got a legal obligation to protect my
children and pets, but I can’t do anything to deter this badger or afford to
erect a badger proof fence at the moment.
Many thanks for your message about the badger and the
issues you are seeing.
You can’t really criticise the Badger Trust for finding
humour in a badger coming through your cat flap to eat cat food. At a different
stage in your life, I suspect you’d find it pretty funny too. The newspapers are
full of stories like this, and the ITV News used to have a “funnies” bit at the
end where we could find a little bit of gentle entertainment in a society which
seems full of awfully-depressing serious problems across the world.
Anyway, back to your badger / cat-food conundrum, here is
my understanding of the situation.
Badgers are especially keen to stuff themselves to bursting
in the approach to winter; as there won’t be as much food around for the next
few months; and they will live on their growing fat reserves when food is
scarce. This may well be a temporary problem which resolves itself in due
The cats have come across the badger and are now
“streetwise” enough to know that the badger will eat their food no matter how
unhappy they are about the situation. When they see the badger coming in through
the cat flap to eat their food, they scarper. To be honest, the cats have made
the right decision here. The badger is either hungry or greedy, so they may as
well just get the hell out of there to leave it to eat their food in peace.
There is no point them making a fight of it or having some sort or Mexican
standoff, they are right to just leave the badger well alone to eat in peace.
You clearly have some sensible cats.
So far as the badger is concerned, food is just food – it’s
not bothered whether it is fresh cat food or old food in a bin. If the food is
there, it will eat it. If there is a smell of food in a bin, it will try to get
the bin open to find the food. That said, it’s been coming through the cat flap
and eating the cat food for eight weeks now; so you have definitely helped it
acquire a taste for cat food. Having spent eights weeks on a diet of cat food,
it will be reluctant to forget it. Actually, it won’t forget it, as it will be
able to smell the scent of the cat food through the cat-flap every evening when
it comes to the kitchen door.
Of course, if you remove the cat food and the food waste
bin from the kitchen, there will be much less reason for the badger to come
inside, through the cat flap. It may take a few days before the badger stops
looking, but it will probably stop eventually.
Regarding the rabbits, you say: “My adult rabbits are so
stressed that one is alerting us all night and as they’re large animals it’s not
possible to move them to another room”. At the risk is being intentionally
flippant, you are saying that the rabbits have gotten so large they won’t even
fit through a doorway? If that’s true, I suspect you have a record rabbit that
Guinness might very interested in for their famous book. Realistically though,
if the rabbits are in a different room, I don’t see the badger being a problem,
if you close the door.
Regarding the damage to the cat flap, that is to be
expected really. The badger wants to get to his food and there is a small flap
in the way. As the hole is a tight squeeze, it would be better (for him) if the
little flap was not there. So, he removed the flap using brute force. So far as
he is concerned, this is brilliant as access is now a lot easier and he can
smell the cat food from even further away. A badger has front claws which are
25mm long and they are strong enough to lift a 25kg rock; so cat flaps are not
usually sold as being “badger proof”.
Sometimes people try propping up a small paving slab
against the cat flap to deter animal entry and exit. This usually works pretty
well for cats and foxes, but badgers are immensely strong and usually just bat
them aside once they smell the cat food. The way to stop badgers getting through
cat flaps is to seal them up; or move them to where the badgers can’t access
We do know of people who have kitchen windows which have
wide outside windowsills which the cats can jump up onto. They then just leave
the kitchen window ajar (on a locked window restrictor), knowing that the cats
can get through, but that badgers can not jump up on to the windowsill to get
through. Maybe this is an option in your case, maybe not, but it’s worth
Incidentally, the most common why most badgers come into
domestic gardens is for feeding or access to another garden where they are
feeding. Windfall fruit, earthworms, insects, lawn pests, bird nuts, cat/dog
food, food bins all provide good reasons for badgers to visit. Bird feeders
provide great food for badgers, with the dropped nuts, seeds and bits of fat
balls; so maybe you or your neighbours are making this a bit too easy for the
badgers. Indeed you may even find that badgers are encouraged into local gardens
if neighbours are feeding them; as they are a real privilege to watch. Badgers
also provide a good tidying-up service, as they will eat carrion (i.e. dead
animals) which has been killed on the local roads and carcasses of birds and
small animals left by cats and foxes.
The other issue regarding the cats is they pretty much all
cats to take a serious toll on the local wildlife. You will almost certainly
have all manner of mice, voles, shrews and birds living near you, which your
cats will cause lethal harm too. This is part and parcel of the mixture of cats
and nature. Until the badger arrived, your cats probably thought they were apex
predators and now they realise that they aren’t; and this may be why they aren’t
as happy as they once were. It is possible the situation may be improved if the
badger was not coming into the house. However, even if the badger stayed outside
the house, the cats may still be worried about going outside in case they meet
the badger again. That’s just the way things go sometimes. We had a cat who
could not care less about a badger, and another one that was in total terror
even if he just caught sight of a toy baby badger.
Importantly too, cats have their own local hierarchy. We
are assuming that the cats are concerned about the badger (which they may be),
but they could be equally concerned by other neighbourhood cats; especially if
they could come through the open cat flap to eat the food as well. There is
often much more to the complexities of feline outdoor life than many cat owners
Regarding your concerns about the safety of the badger,
this is great. If the cats and the badger are continuing to come through a
damaged cat flap; they probably know they can do so safely. Badger fur is about
75mm long; so a few prickly bits of wood aren’t likely to be an issue for them.
Therefore the issue of the safety of the badger is pretty much a non-issue for
me. There seems nothing which makes the badger coming through your cat flap and
eating the cat food unsafe for the badger.
Regarding the possibility of aggressive badgers. I have
never heard of a single instance of a child who has come to harm by being
injured by a badger. Yes, there are idiotic letters in some of the tabloids and
the pro-foxhunting newspapers which claim that all manner of animals are a
menace which “need” to be hunted and killed. In the real world, badgers do not
harm children. There are no references in any scientific literature about
children being harmed by badgers and no mention of this in any of the 170 books
we have about badgers saying they are a risk to children. Of course, there have
been rare but genuine instances of babies having been attacked in their cots by
cats, but this does not happen in badgers.
The issue with the badger apparently growling to be
aggressive is often confused when people who have a pre-set notion of aggressive
badgers hear it. Badgers have very very poor eyesight, decent hearing and an
extraordinary sense of smell. They make a few noises and what may be a strange
chuntering sound may be misconstrued as a growl. Sometimes people say things
like “it was eating the cat biscuits or the bird nuts and then it was snapping
it’s jaws at me”; when what was actually happening it that it was just eating
some crunchy cat biscuits or some hard bird nuts; and crunching them up noisily
using the large back teeth. Just because a badger makes a noise, does not mean
that it is going to mount a serious attack.
In the overwhelming majority of encounters the badger will
scent, hear or see a human and run off as quickly and as fast as it can. If the
badger is cornered it may misconstrue this it being attacked so it may growl in
order to try to make sure it can get away from the person who has blocked their
exit. If you are determined to feed your cats inside your kitchen with an open
cat flap, I would advise putting the cat food near the cat flap, to minimize the
risk that the badger will think that it is cornered, thereby allowing it any
If you are concerned that some-one may open the kitchen
door and see a badger there. There are two bits of advice I’d give. First take
the cat flap off the door and block up the hole. Secondly, if you decide to keep
the open cat flap, then rattle the door handle nice and loud, and knock on the
door or shout “Hello badger” or even sound a ring tone of a Terrier barking on
your phone before you carefully open the door, rather than just going running in
You have correctly hinted at (and immediately rejected) a
very good solution, namely fencing. If you can erect a badger proof fence around
the entire perimeter of your garden you will be able to keep the badger out.
However, this needs to be sunk 18 inches into the group, be at least 4 feet high
and have no gaps whatsoever. These look fine around a sports pitch, but a bit
unsightly in a domestic situation. As you have said, they can be expensive to
The other fencing option (of using an agricultural electric
fence) on a timer isn’t suitable because of the need to let the cats out at
night; and the possible painful sting that it would give to any other animal or
human who touched or fell on it. Such fences also kill small animals and
amphibians; so they are not a harmless solution by any means and they are not
maintenance free. However, they are in the low hundreds of pounds and generally
Otherwise, you will need to close-up every gap in your
perimeter which would allow a badger to get into your garden. This will include
through hedges, fence panels, gates and driveways. It they are burrowing
underneath, try setting a cheap concrete paving slab vertically as a sort of
underground wall. Be sure to avoid any cables/pipework and allow for soil
drainage by leaving 60mm gaps between the slabs if you use a few together.
There is another option which sometimes works in some
short-term situations. If the badgers have a single entry and exit point from
your garden, you might like to consider hanging up a old towel which has been
soaked in human male urine. The towel needs to cover the gap so the badger gets
a noseful of the scent when it tries to pass through. This can be applied
covertly using a watering can or a pump-action hand spray.
You do ask a fairly common question about getting some-one
to move the badger to a safer, different sett. This is a nightmare on so many
Badgers and their setts are fully protected by several
laws. You can not do anything which harms or kills a badgers or causes damage or
destruction to its sett (i.e. its home).
Badgers live in close-knit family-type clans; which
maintain an established territory.
If you take away a nursing female in the clan, dependent
cubs will starve to death.
If you take away the only female in the clan, no further
cubs will be born, meaning you are effectively killing off an entire clan of
If you take away a dominant male, there may not be enough
big males to maintain the territory of the clan meaning they slowly starve to
death or are attacked and/or killed by neighbouring clans.
If the action of capturing a badger in a trap causes enough
stress, it may cause a pregnant badger to abort any cubs.
Taking away a badger from a clan is therefore an extremely
serious option which frequently results in the injury or death of other badgers.
This is why such an action is generally illegal; and a serious criminal offence.
The next issue is once you have taken a badger; why don’t
you just put it into another sett? Like I said, badgers are highly territorial;
and badgers which are placed into a “foreign” clan (i.e. one in which they are
not already known) are very likely to be attacked, injured and possibly killed.
This is why such an action is also generally illegal and is also a serious
However, the Badgers Act does make provision for a badger
sett to be closed and for a clan to be moved elsewhere if circumstances are
serious enough. For example, if a badger was digging a sett into flood defences,
it is likely that this would be a good reason to get them moved. Likewise if a
badger sett was causing subsidence to a road or a railway or a vitally important
building, this too would be good enough. However, as I understand it, the sett
is not on your land; so the sett itself is not causing you a problem. The damage
being done by the badgers is not causing subsidence to your home or damage to
strategically import roads, railways, cables, pipelines or waterways. The
financial problem you are having is the loss of a cat flap and a loss of cat
food (with some unquantifiable level of stress to some domestic pets). Although
this is serious to you, it is an order of magnitude too trivial to warrant the
closure of a sett. Therefore there would be no point you spending any money on
this option, as the likelihood of a successful application would be next to
zero. If you obtained a badger licence, the total costs for you would probably
be in the range £5K to £20K. There has never been any government funding for
this; so the costs would be wholly down to you.
A couple of other things worth thinking about include
deterrent products. There are many pesticide chemical deterrents (Citronella,
Silent Roar, etc) but none have been approved for badgers. The ones which are
designed to deter cats from messing in other peoples gardens work OK for cats,
but there is no evidence they work long term for badgers. Likewise soaking old
towels in male urine, Ralgex spray, Olbas oil may work short term, but long term
is unproven. Scattering bramble stems and prickly Holly leaves won’t deter
badgers long term as they often choose to live in these environments.
Sonic deterrents may work for a while against badgers, but
this is probably only because it is a “new” object in the garden. In your case,
they may deter your own cats and rabbits more than they would deter any badger
with a cat food habit.
I think the way forward for you; would be close the cat
flap altogether. Yes, you will need to let the cats in and out yourself, but at
least you won’t be in fear of this (or any other badgers in the clan) coming
into the kitchen any more.
Otherwise you will need to make a detailed patrol round the
garden and very securely close up every gap the badger could get through. That
should help, unless the badger just digs underneath or climbs over; or if you
have open gates/driveways. You may have to do this a few times if the badger(s)
keep opening up new gaps.
Also, have a diplomatic word with any neighbours to see if
they have seen any evidence of badgers or foxes; and see if they are feeding
them at all. If they are putting out food so they can watch wildlife, this may
be what is encouraging the badger to come into the gardens; and it may be why
your badger is not as shy of people as it might otherwise be. Being brutal
though, for every person who hates the idea of badgers or foxes in their garden,
there are probably two or three times that number who would love to encourage
them. On a personal level, I would never stop feeding birds, badgers or any
species, just because a neighbour (whoever wonderful) didn’t like the idea.
Or, in close conjunction with your neighbours you could try
so-called distraction feeding. This is where you place wet cat food or wet dog
food in an area away from troublesome pets where the badgers can get a decent
feed. The idea here is that the badger(s) wander about and get a decent feed so
they don’t feel forced into coming into kitchens and so on. You need to monitor
this carefully; as you do not want to overfeed the badgers (as you will just
encourage more to come along); and uneaten food may attract species such as rats
(which I guess you would not be happy about either).
I know a lot of the advice we have given will not be what
you want to hear. However, we pride ourselves on giving accurate advice which
gives people the options; as well as helps them understand why badgers do what
they do to live their lives.
One-way gates have been reported on a badger sett…
November 7th, 2015
We have been emailed about one-way badger gates which have
been fitted to a badger sett. These may be used under licence to exclude badgers
from a sett; so they can be moved into another sett. The person who contacted us
was worried about the badgers; and whether they would be driven into making a
sett in his own garden. Here is the text of our email reply.
Badgers live in an underground home called a sett. The sett
(i.e. the land area which contains the entrance holes, the tunnels and nesting
chambers) is a protected structure. This means that the sett can not be closed,
damaged or interfered with in any way. The exception is where some-one has
obtained a licence from Natural England to do something which would otherwise be
Given your message, I assume that a badger licence-type
activity is what is happening in your locality. The likelihood is that a
landowner has used a badger consultant or an ecologist (or maybe even the local
badger group) to obtain a licence on their behalf. Whilst it would be polite to
let immediate neighbours know of the licence application; this does not always
happen. Both the granting of the licence and its terms/conditions are protected
by the Data Protection Act, so that Natural England will not disclose the
details to you; unless the landowner asks them to. Professional developers will
be aware that the presence of badgers on a site may prevent or delay planning
permission; which is a risk factor they would try to avoid. Sometimes therefore
you do find developers who try to make sure that badgers (and other protected
species, such as water voles, bats, etc) are moved out of the way before they
apply for planning permission. Note that development does not always mean new
housing; as it could include business, industry, pipelines or cables. It can
also mean that the badgers are being moved because they are becoming a danger to
themselves (such as by extending their sett underneath a busy road) and it is
commonsense to move them before a tunnel collapse might cause a serious traffic
Badger licences are normally granted because there is a
genuine need to move the sett. Some-one just not liking the idea of them coming
into a garden to forage for worms is not a serious enough reason – even if they
cause lawn damage. The licence process is looking for a serious health and
safety reason (such as building/road subsidence or digging into a flood defence)
or because of a need to move the sett to allow the development to take place.
There is no provision in the law to simple render the badgers homeless or to
have them killed. This is why a badger licence will normally require the
landowner to build a new artificial sett for the badgers nearby. The licence
will then normally require that the badgers are monitored to see that they have
been accessing the artificial sett. This may require night-time observations or
the use of infra-red wildlife cameras. Once it is clear the artificial sett has
been explored by the badgers; the process of closing down the natural sett can
start. If the badgers do not seem keen on the artificial sett; they may be
encouraged to use it by being fed things like wet dog food nearby.
The sett exclusion normally starts with fitting metal
badger gates to the natural sett entrances and leaving them as two-way gates for
a few days. Then a metal “stop” peg will be placed on the gates to make sure the
badgers can emerge from the natural sett and not return. The idea is that this
forces them into taking up residence in the artificial sett. Again, the badgers
need to be monitored during this time; as they are likely to make extremely
persistent efforts to return to their real home. It should be expected that the
sett area may need to be covered with many square metres of strong
tennis-court-type galvanised steel netting. Ideally this will stop them simply
digging new entrance holes to get back into their home. Even if steel netting is
in place, the badgers are likely to try to get underneath it or break through it
where it may be joined or where it may abut fence posts or trees. In the case of
an outlier sett, the badgers may give up on their natural sett after a few
attempts at getting back in. Outlier setts (maybe 1 to 4 entrance holes) will
not be in use by all the badgers of the clan and may be unoccupied for several
months of the year. However, a main sett (maybe 6 to 50 entrances) is a
different problem; as this will be the main home of the whole clan and will be
in continuous occupation. In the case of very old badger setts; they may have
been using the same sett for hundreds of years; so closing a main sett is often
fraught with real difficulty.
Another complicating factor is that badger licences (and
the work they permit) are time-limited, as described on the following page:
If you were to put one-way gates on a badger sett in the
early part of the year this could cause young cubs to starve to death. If the
sett was closed in December, the stress could cause female badgers to lose any
unborn cubs. Therefore a sett can be closed only from the beginning of July
through to the end of November. In other words, if the badgers have not been
totally excluded by the last day of November; the sett-closure process needs to
be abandoned and restarted again from the beginning of July in the following
year. Hence, there will be a great deal of pressure at your sett to make sure
the one-way gates remain intact and there is no re-entry back into the old sett
over the next few weeks. In the case of commercial developments, I have known
cases where security guards have been employed to make sure that one-way gates
were not damaged; as this would cause a huge delay to the development.
Proof of badgers being excluded from the real sett will
need to be established in one of several different ways. Firstly, infra-red
cameras may be in place. Secondly, ecologists may be looking for signs of
current badger activity inside the natural sett (fresh footprints, fresh dung,
fresh scent marking, unbroken spider webs across entrance holes, etc). The
ecologist will need to be able to show that there have been at least a certain
number of consecutive days of no evidence of badgers being back in the old sett.
Once he/she has the evidence, the sett will need to be closed as soon as
possible. This should take place under the direction of an ecologist; and can
included filling the tunnels with concrete foam or excavating it with a JCB-type
digger or some combination of the two. The ecologist should be equipped with a
means of catching a badger from the old sett so it can be put into the new one.
Note that the specific details of the dates, the number of
consecutive days of “no badgers” and the closure methods will be given in the
licence document. If he has any common-sense, the ecologist will have the
licence document with him. If he were to be carrying out any unlicensed sett
interference or destruction, he would be liable to arrest by the Police for
damaging a badger sett or causing harm to badgers.
Of course, the issue for you; is that what will the badgers
In some cases the badgers like their new home and live
there quite happily. If the artificial sett has been built so they can expand it
by adding their own new tunnels and chambers, this is more likely to be the
In others they just don’t seem to like the new sett and
make ongoing efforts to return to their old sett (even if it may have been
damaged or destroyed).
They may also try to expand old fox/rabbit holes or, in
extreme cases, take residence under sheds or decking.
At other times, they may use the new sett for a few weeks
or months and then decide to explore the area looking for a bit of sloping
ground which is above the water table and try to dig their own sett in there.
It is difficult to predict without detailed knowledge of
the area and how badger use the locality. We would expect the ecologist to be
the best person to have this knowledge.
As for keeping badgers out of a garden, our advice on
suitable fencing is on the following page:
There is a lot of advice on there, so I’ll let you read it.
That said, badger-proof fencing is not really the nicest looking fencing in a
domestic garden. Of course, with enough reason to come into a garden, badgers
may well just wander up and down open driveways and footpaths if they are not
stressed out by the noise of people or barking dogs.
Hence, it is worth inspecting the perimeter of your
property to see where badgers could come through hedges or fences; as well as
squeeze or tunnel under any other barriers.
Badgers can climb very well; so it is worth looking for
lines of scratches on walls and fences if you suspect they may be climbing in.
Footprints and scratch marks left by badgers are shown on
the following page:
If there is a risk that badgers or foxes may expand small
gaps or holes to get underneath sheds or garages; it is a lot easier to fill any
gaps with concrete or secure steel mesh before any animal can take residence.
Particularly, with badgers, eviction can be a lot of
trouble; as an established badger sett under a garage/shed is just as protected
under the law as a sett in a woodland.
It is also worth thinking about why badgers come into
gardens. This is normally to get to food (earthworms on a lawn, bird nuts,
windfall fruit, carrion, pet food, food waste bins or bin bags) or to gain
access to another garden where they are fed. The key thing is to make sure that
there is no excess bird food or other food waste; either in your own garden or
left out by any neighbours who like to feed birds, badgers or foxes. The issue
with windfall fruit is highly seasonal and the best way may just be to tolerate
this for a few weeks. It can sometimes help if you dump windfall fruit in a
non-contentious place (such as in a quiet corner of an adjacent field); as this
can give badgers a decent feed and can reduce the risk of them causing lawn
damage, etc. This is what is known as so-called “distraction feeding”. Note that
over-feeding can just encourage more badgers to come by which can make a modest
More generally, so far as feeding is concerned, badgers are
likely to be forage in an area from anything from 20 to 200 acres. Hence, their
feeding patterns are not likely to be massively disrupted by the closure of a
small outlier-type sett. It is normally disruption of access to their foraging
areas (grassland) due to new roads; or the loss of habitat due to
housing/industrial estates that does the real damage to their ability to thrive.
Moving forward, it is probably worth having a sneaky look
around any neighbours or the sett area to see if the ecologists are providing
food near the new sett, as well as to see if any wildlife cameras can be
spotted. Wildlife cameras are often in a green/brown camouflage pattern and will
either use invisible infra-red light or (perhaps) show a very faint red glow
from any LED illumination at night. These cameras typically work duding daylight
hours too; so they may record other species and human activity.
Also, could I ask that you contact the local badger group
to let them know of the potential badger issues in your area.
I’m sure they would be interested to know of the badgers
nearby. They may also wish to get involved if any planning applications pose a
risk to badgers or their loss of green fields or other vital habitat.
The issue of the politics of farming has been a long term
plan for about 10,000 farmers in the upper echelons of the NFU’s 55,000 members.
They have managed to sneak their way on to the DEFRA management team and into
leadership positions within Natural England. These people now maintain a
corrupting and cankerous core at the heart of government – recent Freedom of
Information Requests show without any doubt that they have conspired with the
NFU to bring in a cull of Britain’s badgers.
Mass animal killing when there is a vaccine?
The badger cull is nothing other than a mass killing of
badgers which will do next to nothing to reduce bovine TB infection rates in
cattle. Indeed, better testing measures and restricted measures to move
potentially infected cattle are already reducing the infection rates in cattle
before any badgers are shot by the NFU. Using more accurate cattle TB tests; and
using the TB vaccine on high and medium risk cattle herds could make bovine TB
almost a thing of the past in many cattle-farming areas of Britain. The NFU’s
twisted logic of avoiding the TB vaccine is the same as saying you’d kill the
first of your children who got measles, polio or diphtheria to try to stop it
from infecting the others. The logic of a £10 TB vaccine, is that you can
protect a badger or a valuable beef animal or a productive high-yield milker for
their whole life; without the upset of either culling or financial embarrassment
at Barclays. The government agreement that the NFU will be able to shoot 100,000
badgers will leave huge parts of the UK with no badgers; will make no serious
difference to the 4,000 cattle which are shot under farm TB management rules and
The effective end of badger protection laws?
The NFU’s appalling and bloody massacre of thousands of
healthy badgers will start very soon it seems. Of course, the Conservatives who
run DEFRA seem to think their job is to pursue their own narrow-minded pro-hunt
interests against the environment. We have seen numerous examples of
soft-treatment of grouse-moor owners and shabby treatment of wildlife (buzzards,
eagles, hen harriers, gulls, corvids, etc). The badger is a case in point. The
issue with the two “trial” badger culls is NOT to cut bovine TB (as all the dead
ones will be burnt before they are TB tested). The badger cull is not about
science or research or learning, it is simply a new bloodsport brought in under
the cover of assessing whether they can kill enough badgers over a six-week long
shooting festival. Less than 1% of dead badgers will be checked to see whether
they had instant humane deaths, so many badgers will die long painful inhumane
deaths. If the hunter’s guns can inflict enough casualties on the protected
badger populations of Somerset and Gloucestershire; they will roll out a plan
across all or most of England’s counties over the next 25 years. To all intents
and purposes, the badger cull signals the effective end of the various laws
which protects the badger from persecution.
An e-petition sought to change the government policy on the
killing of badgers. DEFRA have ignored this – the most popular such e-petition
ever – arrogantly dismissing the views of nearly 270,000 UK voters, simply
because 10,000 farmers want to use the badger as a scapegoat. As well, and
possibly of greater importance, are the views of the top scientists from the UK
and overseas. There is no peer-reviewed scientific paper which states that
culling badgers will make a major impact on the reduction in TB in cattle. If
you have a government which point-blank refuses to listen to every top scientist
on one of the most important science-problems in animal health, you’ve got to
question not just their ability to govern, but also their ability to think.
The “failed” NFU injunction
The NFU has rightly been subject to some criticism. They
responded to this criticism so “well” they went to court to try to get an
injunction banning any-one from protesting in Somerset or Gloucestershire and
several other counties. In effect their injunction was so watered down by the
Judge in the High Court, all it really says is that badger cull protesters
should not break the law as it already existed before the cull was agreed. So,
if you are a lawful protestor, you have no worries from the NFU or the Police,
as injunctions are not a police matter. Even if you are what some people claim
might be an “unlawful” protestor, do you have genuine worries in the real world?
People skilled in the arts of sabbing hunts seem to think that the badger cull
protests will not be badly affected by the NFU injunction anyway. Our advice,
for what it’s worth, is that the hunt sabs have the skills, experience and the
legal know-how on their side. Any-one wanting to protest the badger cull in a
direct action type of manner would be well advised to join the hunt sabs
organisations, buy the clothing and the kit; and know what to do and what to say
in what circumstances. Despite the rabid rantings of the pro-hunt animal abusers
and twitter trolls; every single hunt sab we have ever met prides themselves on
their non-violent stance. They do not want to meet violence with violence; they
just want to see animals live their wild or domestic lives free from torture,
hunting and abuse.
But how do we move forward in the protest against the
We have done everything we can as law-abiding citizens to
persuade the government to change their minds and follow the people and the
science to vaccinate rather than exterminate. We have twice written to our local
(twice married, but against gay marriage) MP, Craig Whitaker. His “copy and
paste” idiotic response suggests he is a man who shows every sign of being
outwitted by a blunt pencil. Owen Paterson, David Heath and Richard Benyon are
all pro-hunt; are have all been put in place by the grouse-shooting stag-hunting
fox-hunting Prime Minister. So long as Cameron is in the office; the Etonians,
aristocrats and the idiotic backbench wannabes will pursue their own interests,
even though 65,000,000 plebs disagree with them. Given that this government
don’t listen, and we can’t afford NFU-style bribes or Monsanto-style jobs for
“after politics”, all we can say is that we are done with them as voters. In
exactly the same way that the Conservatives lost “Yorkshire” when they shut down
their coal mines, for a generation they will lose the votes of all the people
who think that wildlife is for watching not for hunting or shooting.
Dr Brian May – Brock God
We continue to be big supporters of the scientist, rock
guitarist and national treasure Brian May and his campaigning for the future of
badgers and farming, but the e-petition will close soon; and the government will
ignore it unless the NFU sign it. Initially we thought he might be a celebrity
distraction, but he has campaigned very well and shown up the NFU for what they
are on every occasion they have had the balls to debate with him. Odd how the
NFU don’t seem to want to debate with him any more… Brian, you are a hero for
wildlife – we would hope that your work for wildlife will be seen as your best
work to date.
Organics is “Dead Badger” Milk Nowadays
We continue to be big supporters of the Badger Trust,
Secret World, the Badger Protection League, Save Me, the League Against Cruel
Sports, the Hunt Sabs Association and their many county groups, as well as the
RSPCA. As “wildlife” people we have a huge affinity with all wildlife groups and
we are grateful for the full support of the many raptor-watch groups; and the
quiet (if not whispering) support of the WWT and the RSPB. The one group we
thought would be in favour of wildlife was the Soil Association; but they have
allowed their big-business supporters to poison the organic movement, so that
organic dairy milk may as well be “dead badger” milk nowadays.
For any-one who has not been on a protest, I would strongly
recommend doing so, as you meet some great people and you can show your support
for wildlife and shout out about how the government is so very badly wrong.
Organisations like the Secret World, Badger Trust, Somerset Badger Patrol and
others organise peaceful protests, suitable for kids and critters, young and old
and everyone from the gentle grannie through to the experienced sabber. When you
retire, I’m sure you’d rather have a story to tell that you did something real,
rather than grumbling about it being a shame; so please be out there.
If you can’t get to the culling fields of Somerset and
Gloucestershire, you can help people who can by supporting them to buy things
like fuel for vehicles, torches, mobile phones and so on.
We try to list the various support funds on our web-site on
this page – they do change from time to time:
Direct Action is the Answer Now
Importantly though, the bloody badger cull is now imminent,
so what is needed NOW is direct action in the woodlands and fields of England to
save the lives of badgers.
There are so many direct action groups now, that the NFU
had to include the term “unknown persons” in their injunction to try to include
One great organisation to support are the Hunt Saboteurs
Association; as they celebrate 50 years of being in the fields to stop blood
sports, such as fox hunting, hare coursing and badger culling. It is worth
checking them out on their website and making use of their Donate button or
It is also worth checking for your local county Hunt Sabs
groups (http://hsa.enviroweb.org/index.php/get-involved/localgroups); as well as
field-based events, they still need help with fund raising too. You don’t need
to dress in “combats” and walk across field to help the Hunt Sabs if that’s not
Do be sure to check out their legal advice page though. Not
that we are suggesting you might be a lawbreaker or anything, but it is as well
to read about and understand why “hunt sabs” do and say the things they do and
why they dress in a certain way. Essentially sabbing is predominantly a
team-work activity, so it’s as well to know the rules your friends are
If you are focussed only on the badger cull right now,
please check out the tweets from
https://twitter.com/freebrocks and the
http://badger-killers.co.uk/ and https://www.facebook.com/stop.the.cull
as they are very active in the cull zones. Contrary to what the NFUs apologists
say, lots of people support @freebrocks – in fact they have more supporters than
the NFU do, which is kind of ironic. Following @freebrocks on twitter is good as
they are good at communicating information which is both timely and accurate;
and less prone to misinterpretation within the froth of false rumours placed by
some trolls and hunt-supporters.
Like we have said, we believe the time for the polite
politics is coming to a close; and the time for direct action to save badgers
from the guns is imminent. The government will not listen; so it is up to the
people of this country to go into the fields and the woodlands to rescue as many
badgers from the inhumanity of the farmer’s guns as physically possible.
Following the publication of this article, we have made a
£50 donation to the FreedaBrocks fuel fund, so they can get sabs and experienced
activists into the badger cull zones.
Badger Mitigation Works
September 1st, 2012
Whenever people want to undertake large building projects
across our green and pleasant countryside, some-one always claims that the
scheme can’t go ahead because of the presence of badgers. Sometimes this is
because badgers are genuinely in residence and the development would badly
affect them. At other times, and more often than not in our experience,
objectors play the “badger card” to try to get the unwanted development stopped;
without any real concern for our furry black and white friends. We are not
against all developments in the countryside, as many provide real benefits for
humankind. We do think it’s a bit rich for the nimby brigade to use badgers for
their own purposes, when they’ve never been involved with helping their local
badgers before though. Badgers are a keynote species that we should care for,
before we think they can be used to get planning permission stopped. Anyway,
that’s our daily rant done for today – we will now start to talk about what
happens when you really need to consider the needs of badgers and developers –
in other words, the whole tricky subject of badger mitigation.
Let’s assume the person behind the building scheme is a
developer (although it could be a government department, a railway, a pipeline
or a cable company or a roadbuilder).
Before the scheme can be given the legal go-ahead, the
developer must be able to demonstrate that their proposals will not have a
detrimental impact on badgers. This is likely to involve the implementation of
appropriate mitigation measures to safeguard the animals, their setts and their
foraging habitat. There is a whole host of “Best Practice” guides for what this
might mean; but they are generally better to buy in the services of a badger
consultant who really knows about badgers.
Assuming the sett location is not to be destroyed, one key
area to examine is the loss of foraging territory for the badgers.
It may be that a significant proportion of a badger
territory is to be lost to the development – this is especially bad news of it
includes important feeding areas. To mitigate against the loss it may be
possible to enhance the foraging value of the remaining territory to compensate
for any feeding areas lost. Supplementary feeding with ‘artificial’ foodstuffs
is not recommended as this leads to the badgers becoming largely dependent on
humans. A better approach is to consider improving the quality of the remaining
areas of grassland, through appropriate management, thereby increasing the
abundance of earthworms. That said, it is both lazy and irresponsible simply to
expect badgers to replace lost foraging by feeding in gardens or other amenity
areas. This will only lead to animosity from neighbouring landowners, many of
whom will not welcome badgers digging up their lawns, greens and flower-beds.
Even with the crazy government idea to kill badgers across
the south west of England, more badgers still die on roads than from any other
cause. Badgers can be helped to cross roads safely by purpose-built
underpasses/tunnels and badger-proof fencing. These underpasses must be located
on or very very close to existing badger paths. When new roads are planned, the
proposed measures to protect badgers must be designed during the design stage,
to allow tunnels and fencing to be integrated with drainage, cuttings and
embankments. The correct positioning and specification for these structures is
absolutely essential, otherwise they will be ineffective and a waste of money.
They will result in badgers getting on to the roads where they will get killed;
with consequent damage to motor vehicles and potential vehicle accidents.
Hitting a 13kg badger at 70mph will cause serious damage to the structure of a
motor vehicle; and could easily kill a motorcyclist.
Fences and Walls
Dry stone walling may be specified along new roads because
it looks nicer than a fence. Such walling seems to be an ever increasing feature
on new motorways and road upgrades. So far as badgers are concerned a dry-stone
wall is not suitable as a badger barrier. If used, it must be designed with a
suitable wire overhang to stop badgers getting over the top of the wall.
A proper badger-proof fence is better for the badgers; but
you need to get your badger consultant to specify it in detail. Whilst a fencing
contractor can do the manual work, the detail has to be specified by some-one
with real experience of the mentality of the badger – an animal that has great
strength, excellent digging skills, good climbing ability and more-or-less no
As the entire point of the badger-proof wall or fence is to
keep the badgers off the road, all the mitigation works must be in place before
the new or altered road is open to traffic!
Excluding badgers & providing artificial setts
Badgers spend huge amunts of time digging and developing
their main setts. They are very unwilling to leave them; and extremely keen to
return given the chance. Consequently, every effort should be made to retain
badger setts on the site, especially the critically important main setts.
However, if the destruction of a sett is unavoidable, Natural England, the
Countryside Council for Wales or Scottish Natural Heritage can licence the
exclusion of badgers from the sett, followed by its immediate destruction. At a
cost (to the developer) exclusion can be humanely achieved by a combination of
badger-proof fencing and/or specially designed one-way gates that allow the
badgers out of the sett area, but prevent their re-entry. Note that the licence
has to be issued before the exclusion work begins; and the work can be done only
within a few months of the year. Contact your badger consultant for more details
of the closed season for this type of work.
Of course, licences to exclude badgers from main or annexe
setts will normally only be issued if a suitable programme of mitigation has
already been done. A licence will only be issued if there are alternative
suitable setts available to the badgers, within the same territory. If other
suitable setts are not available, an artificial sett must be provided, but this
must be seen as the least preferred option. The site must be carefully selected
and all work supervised by a badger expert. The most successful artificial setts
have been located less than 100 metres from the original natural sett and
constructed at least six months before the badgers are excluded. This might seem
like a bureaucratic nightmare, but the rules are designed to protect badgers AND
to make sure the mitigation schemes work for the long term.
Some people ask whether all this wildlife work is
worthwhile. If you are a badger hater, you probably think it isn’t. However, we
have worked on various badger projects in Britains woodlands and fields; and we
think everyone who has worked with us sees the benefits of working with nature.
We aren’t just talking about wildlife-friendly people like us, but we include
several “seasoned” construction workers. Whilst they might come across as
hard-working, hard-playing, hard-drinking roadmen; we are sure they are secretly
proud of the badger protection work they did. They are certainly always on site
whenever any badgers are being brought back in to the site. Curiously, it always
seems to be the same guys with the mini-diggers who are available for the badger
work; so there are many more badger fans than you might think.
If you are ever wanting to do your bit for wildlife, you
could contact your local badger group, to see if they could use your skills.
There are dozens of groups across the UK, why so not check out if there is one
You might want to get involved in badger protection work;
or you might just want to see badgers doing their natural wild animal behaviour.
In any event, badgers are one of Britains keynote species who deserve to keep
the legal protection they have had for several decades. Seeing them in the wild
IS something you’d want to share with everyone.
Badger Culling or Vaccination to solve a disease
problem in cattle?
June 8th, 2012
As far back as 2008 Professor Christl Donnelly
(http://www1.imperial.ac.uk/medicine/people/c.donnelly/) published an artle
about the effects of culling or vaccinating badgers and how this might affect
the levels of bovine TB infections in cattle.The article appeared in the Journal
of Applied Ecology – a peer-reviewed scientific journal. For those of you who
might like to read it in full, you can get all the detail from :
A summary of the article suggests two important things:
culling badgers causes them to alter their social
structure and their ranging behaviour, with the risk that there could be new or
additional contacts between badgers and cattle, potentially increasing TB
infection rates. In other words, the perturbation hypothesis, as to why culling
badgers can make bovine TB worse in cattle.
vaccinating badgers so they do not get bovine TB infections
(from cattle or other species), does not disturb their social hierarchy or their
ranging behaviour. In other words, vaccinating badgers reduces the density of
infectious badgers, without affecting their behaviour.
So far as we are concerned, given a choice between either
culling or vaccinating, the choice should be to vaccinate; as this improves the
situation for badgers; and reduces the risks for cattle. There is also the
benefit, that there is less TB in the environment to affect other wildlife
species. In these troubled times, there will be much less need for a visible
police presence in the badger killing areas; as most animal rights extremists
would not be getting involved in violence to stop a vaccination scheme. Likewise
peaceful protesters may be more inclined to buy from farms and businesses in
cull areas; rather than boycotting them.
Anyway, coming back to the report, Professor Donnelly is
some-one who has an awesome knowledge of both badgers AND in the transmission of
infectious diseases. She was also a key member of the panel which managed the
science surrounding the RBCT (aka the £50 million Krebs badger killing
experiment). And, she is a Professor at Imperial College – one of the world’s
leading scientific institutions. She is undoutedly one of the key people whose
opinions and advice should be sought, listened to and relied upon by policy
makers. Just to remind everyone, the whole RBCT TEAM stated that culling badgers
is NOT effective in controlling bovine TB in cattle.
Coming up towards the end of June 2012, is a court case, in
which the Badger Trust are seeking judicial review of DEFRAs decision to cull
badgers across wide areas of England. The Badger Trust say the three stooges who
run DEFRA (farmer Caroline Spelman, farmer Jim Paice and farmer Richard
Benyon), have got the science wrong. The NFU (National Farmers Union) seem to be
getting sick and tired of DEFRA not removing the Protection of Badgers Act; and
want to kill badgers using any excuse they can come up with. Of course, killing
25,000 cattle every year due to the policy details surrounding bovine TB, is a
disaster for them and for farm incomes; and for hard-done-to taxpayers who
compensate farmers and agri-businesses who keep finding themselves with bTB
infections. But, 250,000 cattle die before they should, due to other preventable
conditions, such as BVD, lameness and so on. Bovine TB is bad for a farmer, and
it’s not the only disease they farmers should be worried about; but it the only
one they can scapegoat badgers for.
The NFU are clearly so worried that farmers will not want
to get involved in killing thousands of badgers that they have already said they
will effectively bankroll the badger culling campaign. They are clearly worried
that their “agents” in DEFRA will lose the court case on the grounds that it is
not economic or that the non-peer-reviewed NFU “science” will not hold up to
Indeed, Peter Kendall, president of the NFU has already
been doing the rounds slagging off “so called experts with PhD’s” – don’t know
whether he thinking of Professor Donnelly or Dr Brian May or some-one else. No
matter, Professor Donnelly has been called as a witness at the court case; where
she could be asked about whether badger culling will do the things the NFU want
or whether a badger cull will make no real difference. We can’t yet know the
detail what she will be asked, or what she will reply, or indeed whether the
judge will have enough of a scientific background to be able to understand the
science and hopefully come to the conclusion that vaccination would always be
better than culling.
What does seem likely is that Professor Donnelly has the
potential to be a key scientific witness; whose influence on the outcome of the
case will be immense. As for Peter Kendall, he has been so obsessed with killing
badgers, he refuses to think about any Plan B. If the NFU “lose”, the NFU should
metaphorically do to him what they want to do to badgers. In our view, he is the
latest of the NFU leaders to fail their members. If DEFRA lose, the only way
forward for the three farmers who are currently running the show has to be a
swift and decisive return to back benches; where they would have ample time to
contemplate how they have all continued to let down enviromentalists, farmers
and all of us who are involved in some small way in rural affairs.
It’s going to be an interesting court case, that’s for
Overmedicated, Dirty Water, Undertested (and Very Well
May 26th, 2012
Mark Purdey TB Parasitic Worm Over-Medication Hypothesis
Back as far as 2005, Mark Purdey (from Elworthy near
Taunton in Somerset farming country) formulated the hypothesis that the routine
over-usage of a veterinary medicine called levamisole to treat episodes of
parasitic worm infections in cattle reduced the animals ability to use its
immune system to defend itself against the bovine TB infection.
When cattle become infected with the bovine TB infection,
their mammalian biosystem expresses an iron binding exocrine protein,
lactoferrin, which scavenges and competes for free iron, thereby starving the
parasite of its vital iron supply. In other words, their natural immune system
tries to starve the parasite of iron, which effectively kills the parasite
Mark Purdy’s hypothesis stated that the use of this routine
use of this medication, significantly affected the production of iron-based
molecules, which caused a large reduction in the animal’s main line of defence
against a TB infection. This was combined with the belief that dairy cattle are
ingesting increasing amounts of iron in their diet.
Parasitic Worm Causes Failure to Detect Bovine TB in Dairy
Here we are in 2012 and we find another scientific journal
publishing another paper which shows that cattle infected with fasiola hepatica
(i.e. a parasitic worm infection) is strongly associated with the failure to
detect bovine TB infections in cattle. See
This large scale study (involving 3026 dairy herds) showed
that there is a significant negative association between exposure to the
fasciola hepatica parasite; and the ability of the intradermal comparative
cervical tuberculin test used to diagnose bTB. The papers shows that cattle
exposed to the parasite are between 27% and 38% less likely to provide an
accurate TB test result.
Perhaps it’s just me thinking on simplistic lines, but
giving cattle lots of CLEAN water to drink and avoiding over-medicating them,
might be a very good way to stop them getting parasitic worm infections, which
might make it more likely they provide an accurate TB test result (allowing
TB-infected animals to be culled out of the herds before they infect other
In the meantime, might I suggest that beefeaters might like
to choose meat from organically raised cattle which tend to have less need for
medication and less intensively used water supplies.
Oh – and I want my steak cooked Very Very Well Done…
Want to see badgers near to you?
August 9th, 2010
Today’s blog talks about one of the key questions we are
often asked on
www.badgerland.co.uk, namely: How can we get some badgers to come and
live near us?
Over the past few days, I have been in email contact with a
friend of mine who works in the badger business – or more accurately – for an
charity. For want of a better nickname, let’s call my friend “Secret
Andy”. Over the years, I have done a bit of work with Secret Andy – helping to
move a family of badgers from under a road and a house to a safer location in a
new nearby woodland. I also worked with Secret Andy on a badger release project
in the North of England. When I say “worked together”, I really mean he did 99%
of the work and I did 99% of the write-up for a
Secret Andy has a dream job, which involves caring for baby
badgers at one of the world’s most important
centres; assembling them into perfect new families, and finding them
homes in the wild. However, like any dream job it is not a job for the fearful
or the faint-hearted.
Often the badgers that come into Secret Andy’s care are
orphaned cubs, whose mothers have been killed in road traffic accidents in the
first few weeks and months of the year. The biggest killer of badgers in the UK
is the motor vehicle; and this takes a huge toll on the badger population. Every
year baby cubs, yearlings and adults are mown down on the roads and railways –
perhaps as many as 50,000 badgers die on the roads every year. Although every
accident has a victim, the worst tragedy of all is when a nursing mother (called
a sow) is killed. Her young cubs, still dependent on her milk will remain in or
near their sett waiting and crying patiently for her non-return. Over a number
of days, they will become ever hungrier and more dehydrated; and increasingly at
risk of predation by foxes and terriers which have been slipped off the lead by
the small proportion of dog-owners who are classed as dim-witted.
In some cases, older badger cubs may be seen at or near the
entrance to the sett, where they may be observed by keen badger watchers and
perhaps even rescued if they know a dead nursing sow has been found recently.
Cubs only a few weeks old will remain underground – their eyes still not open
and their little legs still not strong enough to emerge from their underground
birthplace and into the hands of a potential rescuer. Far far too many badgers
cubs die underground in this way. It is amazing that so many orphaned badger
cubs are rescued every year; and that so many find themselves placed into the
care provided by Secret Andy and his many co-workers and volunteers.
Once at the rescue centre, the little orphans are assessed
for their state of health and fed and watered – sometimes as often as every hour
– by a band of dedicated and increasingly tired workers and volunteers. Badger
cubs are very cute little critters and every-one who comes into close contact
with one soon becomes very attached to them. The cubs are assessed in terms of
whereabouts in the country they came from and their ages, sizes and sexes; and
placed into new families. The idea is that the badgers can be raised as a proper
family unit which can be released back into the freedom of the countryside as a
family unit; and ideally into the same county that they came from. Over the
space of several weeks, the badger cubs get used to their human carers and their
new families and generally do well in the rescue centre.
The next stage for the badger cubs is that they need to be
removed from the company of their human carers so they can become wild again. Of
course, when they are on the hourly feeds; the cubs do get used to human company
and close contact. However, this is a bad idea for release-badgers as their
cousins who have always lived in the wild remain very wary of humans – often
with very good reason. At the rescue centre, the badgers are placed into special
pens where they can be observed and fed remotely, but they do not generally see
humans except in the most unusual circumstances. I guess you could see this as
“tough love”, but it’s probably an awful lot tougher on the human carers than
world-class badger rescue centre, the
badgers are treated according to a detailed agreed protocol. This procotol means
that the badgers are assessed for their state of health at various points in
their lives to make sure that they remain as healthly viable animals. Although
you might want to do ALL you can to treat an animal; living in the wild is a
tough job and you have a responsibility to make sure that every animal can make
the grade. Sadly a few animals are too poorly to be in with a fighting chance in
the wild and not all survive.
The other key test when working with badgers which are to
be released into the countryside is the issue of bovine tuberculosis (i.e. the
form of TB which cattle spread to one another, to other animals and,
potentially, any-one who is reckless enough to still drink unpasteurised cows
milk). Many people are unsure of the relationship between the bovine TB you get
in cows and the bovine TB you then get in badgers, deer, cats, rats, mice,
moles, earthworms, llamas, goats and people. Some of the people who are unsure
as to how bovine TB works work for DEFRA – some of the others work for the
National Farmers Union (NFU) and some are still Ministers in the Welsh Assembly
Government (though God knows why after the debacle over the Welsh badger cull in
Wales). Let’s just none of these confused people end up working in the NHS!
Anyway, back to the care and the science and the
responsibility of Secret Andy at the
badger rescue centre. ALL their badgers are
tested to see whether they are carrying the bovine TB infection. This isn’t the
sort of crappy cheap-as-chips unreliable test that the government uses too
infrequently on too few cows; this is a proper scientific test which is both
expensive and highly-accurate. If the test shows that the badger has or even
might have the TB infection it is put to sleep and a post-mortem done and
various bits of the animal’s tissue cultured to see if the poor badger actually
had TB. Needless to say, although a very small % of badgers do show that they
have been exposed to TB by the test, virtually none actually have TB in reality
in their bodies. A few weeks later, the badgers are tested again to see if they
have picked up the TB. And, a few weeks after that, the badgers are tested once
more. At each stage, any badger which shows an undesirable result is put to
sleep, post mortemed and cultured. Virtually no badgers have TB on post mortem
or on culture. Full Stop. So there we have it, badgers released according to the
badger procol are tested THREE times to make sure that they do not carry the
bovine TB infection. Badgers which are released according to the badger
protocol, do not have bovine (cattle) TB. The suggestion that they do is put
about by certain members and spin-doctors associated with the No Flaming Use
brigade. They should be ashamed they have to lie to what they think is clearly a
Importantly, though, there is relatively new development
known as the badger vaccine. This is based on the BCG vaccine that protected
much of the human world from TB, but it has now been adapted for badgers. Seems
to be a brilliant idea on the face of it and well worth pursuing. Given the
choice of a low-speed injection with a needle and high-speed injection with a
hunting rifle, I know which one I’d choose. Badgers which have already passed
the three high-tech bovine TB tests are now being given the badger vaccine as
yet another safeguard against the flow of the TB infection around wildlife and
As an aside, I sometimes have a strange dream where I
wonder whether any-one might have thought of inventing some sort of vaccine
which farmers could give to their cattle to stop them getting the bovine TB
infection and therefore stop passing their bovine TB to other cattle and other
species! Clever scientists have won Nobel prizes for work like this! Businessmen
have even won houses and yachts in Monaco for similar work!
Back in the real world , if all this work with the badgers
seems like hard work it is; although it must count as one of the most rewarding
jobs in the world when things go right.
The next part of the operation seems like the easy bit –
take the nearly-grown-up family of badgers into the countryside and release
them! If it were only that simple!!
A bit like the residents of Royston Vasey, badgers, as a
species, remain in a very small very local area throughout all their lives –
they are not wide-ranging like deer or cattle trucks for example. Partly because
badgers remain within a mile or so of where they were born, badger clans
(families) are highly territorial. In other words, they have their own main
underground home (called a sett) and an area around it which they will defend
with great vigour. The very last thing that a clan of badgers wants is another
clan being released into their home area. If this were to happen, the badgers
would fight for dominance which could result in serious injuries and even
deaths. Eventually, the weakest surviving badgers would be driven away by the
stronger ones; but only after a huge amount of suffering.
For this reason, when new badger familes are released; they
usually go into an area of countryside which provides them with food, shelter
and safety; and is a decent distance away from other badger clans. One of the
really, really difficult bits of Secret Andy’s job is finding these vital areas.
You might find, for example, that there are loads of suitable badger foods and
there are some great woodlands for them to shelter and make their homes in, but
the site is too near where badger baiters operate or it’s too near a busy road.
The problem of finding suitable release sites for new badger families is an
annual problem. With every new summer/autumn there are several new badger
familes which NEED a home in the countryside so they can live their natural wild
lives. With every successful release of a new family; there is the immense joy,
pride and delight on the part of the badgers rescuers of another family returned
to the wild. And, there is the thought, that we now need to find another great
badger release site to replace the one that has just been used.
Actually a great deal of work goes into finding suitable
badger release sites. Secret Andy does a lot of the surveying work and the
detailed suitability assessment; but much of this is in close collaboration with
badger groups and other animal rescue
organisations. The landowner is the key contact, as he or she needs to
give their permission. After that neighbours may be asked for their opinions and
whether they might want to get involved. Overall though, the process is very
much a colloborative one with people working together with patience and
understanding, and in a few cases gentle pursuasion.
Having been involved in one of these badger releases, I can
say that this was more interesting, fulfilling and rewarding than anything else
I did that year. I can heartily recomend any-one to get involved in work like
this- it will certainly be a damn sight more interesting than going to another
set of lectures or boring business meetings or wasting money on frippery in the
shopping centre or whatever.
As a landowner or a long-term tenant, you don’t necessarily
need to own a massive area of land – if you have a few acres/hectares in which a
temporary straw-bale or a permanent artificial badger sett could be built that
might be enough – especially if surrounding areas provide a good habitat for
badgers in terms of shelter, food and safety. Landowners are increasingly seeing
themselves not just as owners of the land but as custodians of the wildlife and
the ecology of the land.
Of course, in contacting Secret Andy at the badger rescue
centre you are embarking on a dual process of hope and discovery. It may be
that, at this precise moment, the circumstances are not right or the environment
around you is not rich enough in terms of woodlands, fields and biodiversity;
but the environment is a long-term thing. Getting the ball rolling in the right
direction is something you can start now, even if it is a year or two before
everything falls into place. It’s certainly worth making a phone call as you
have nothing to lose and a new badger family has everything to gain. If you or a
neighbour might be interested in seeing badgers on your land, I would urge you
to contact Secret Andy to see how you can help one another to help Britain’s
badgrs live their wild lives.
This week I have been in the very fortunate position of
being able to work from home. So there I was in the middle of a whole lot of
complex IT development work for an important client, when the Badgerland phone rings.
Very well spoken young lady on the other end of the phone
wants some advice about dealing with badgers in gardens.
To cut a long story short, an old lady is living in her own
home and badgers are coming into her garden and causing quite a lot of damage.
She’s upset because they are coming in from outside and she really loves her
garden and she wants the badgers to stop making such a mess. The badgers are
actually living in their sett which is on neighbouring land – the neighbour
being the local council. Of course, the old lady is a bit infirm and, as she’s
living only on the state pension, she can’t afford to be spending any money on
expensive ways to try and solve the problem.
Badgers and their underground homes are protected by law.
You can’t get rid of them if you don’t like them or don’t care for what they are
doing. The local council don’t have a problem with the badgers living on their
land. Quite rightly, the council are not responsible for the actions of wild
animals – especially when they are as well protected by the law as badgers are.
There is a proper procedure to deal with major
badger-related problems – this involves getting a commercial badger consultant
or your local badger group to apply for a so-called Badger Licence from Natural
England, which would give the legal authority to move the badgers to a new home
which you have built for them (at your expense). The procedure costs both time
and money; and there are periods of the year when you can do nothing to the
badger sett – this is to make sure that any cubs can be born and weaned without
disturbance. The Badger Licence procedure has traditionally been used for
problems which are serious, rather than just trivial, upsetting or, for want of
a better word, cosmetic. The procedure is there to make sure that there is
enough “justification” to destroy a protected badger sett. It is there to deal
with important things such as the case of a real risk to health and safety, such
as badgers digging into a railway embankment or a flood defence or a corner of
the house falling off. Bog-standard garden damage is not serious enough, so,
correctly in our view, the Badger Licence procedure does not apply here.
Apart from moving house and leaving the badger issue as a
delightful surprise for the new owners, there are a couple of ways to think
about coming to an amicable solution.
First solution, and without doubt the cheapest one, is to
get used to the badgers and their friendly little ways. Of course, making sure
there are no food scraps in the garden might help; as the badgers will have less
reason to come into the property. Like many wild animals, badgers don’t go round
the countryside as tourists with the aim of wanton destruction. They do travel
around for food and what people politely used to call “a bit of how’s your
father”? If badgers have nothing to eat in your garden, that’s one less reason
why they will want to come on to your lawns and flowerbeds.
The second way to keep badgers out, is with the use of
badger-proof fencing. These come in two types: permanent and temporary.
Permanent fence: As prolific diggers, you need to sink the
fence deep underground to stop them burrowing underneath. As accomplished
climbers, you will need to make the fence good and tall (at least 4 feet); and
so they can’t get a grip with their strong claws. Some animal rescue centres
confine their rescue badgers with a fence with an horizontal overhang – a bit
like you’d see surrounding a military base, but without the CCTV cameras.
Erecting the fence is a considerable undertaking – both in terms if time, labour
and expense. No doubt the mess made by the builders would add to the stress of
an already-worried pensioner too.
Temporary fence: these are good to exclude badgers for a
few weeks or months. Hence their use around food crops in fields and on
allotments; and golf courses when the Tiger is in town. More than 99% effective
at keeping out badgers, foxes, rabbits and dogs; the main problem comes in the
name – yes – it’s the dreaded “electric” fence. Yes, they are unsightly in a
domestic garden and they can harm or kill small creatures such as frogs. But,
you can buy these for a few hundred pounds from farm suppliers; and the
saleshuman will probably know some-one who can help out with the installation
too. You can even run them through a manual on/off switch or a timer so you can
keep your garden pain-free for pets and any favoured children during the
There did used to be a special chemical (called Renardine)
which was very good at excluding badgers from a treated area. However, this was
made completely illegal by the European parliament as it was made from ground up
cattle bones. If you ever got a whiff of the oily brown stuff, you’d think it
was made from something much worse than that (think “BP oil spill” and you are
So, here we are; an old lady with no money to put up a
fence to keep badgers out of her garden asks for advice. It sound like she’s
been contacting various people already, and she eventually settled on speaking
to the DEFRA helpline. For any-one who has been living outside the known
universe for a number of decades, DEFRA (and its predecessor government called
MAFF) have been conducting the most appallingly blinkered badger-hating campaign
since the late 1960s. Any reason to blame the badger, and DEFRA are there.
Bovine Tuberculosis in cattle – that must be badgers who do that, is the DEFRA
mindset. Never mind that the cattle skin test for bovine TB is less accurate
than an MPs expense claim. It’s more important that you can blame an innocent
scrapegoat rather than assess the science and see that the cheapest TB tests are
hardly worth doing in cattle which might have been exposed to TB from their
In case you hadn’t guessed already, the polite
nicely-spoken young lady we were speaking too was from the DEFRA helpline.
They wondered if there was any advice or help we could give
to the old lady. Methinks we’ve been in contact with her already – we are happy
to give free advice about badgers and we are pretty sure we did so a week or two
back. We try to help where we can, but some people don’t like to hear what the
law is and then don’t agree with it anyway. Cest la’vie !
In her circumstances we
suggested she might like to contact her local badger group who would be able to
see if there is a problem with badgers in the area around her garden. We also
suggested she might like to ask the council to share the cost of the new fence
which would be on their shared boundary – possibly sharing with the neighbours
Coming back the the DEFRA hepline, they were keen to know
if we were aware of any-one who was able to pay for the old lady to have a new
fence around her property. Errrr – no we weren’t..
They wanted to know whether we would be able to fund a
project like this. Errrr – I know the government is skint, but asking private
citizens to bail out other private citizens is a bit much…
Then Defra (a government department with a budget of
£££ billions and a staff of 10s of thousands and a call centre full of underemployed
Media Studies graduates) asked the killer question! If they had any badger
queries in future, could they give their callers our Badgerland phone number?
Not bloody likely (unless they are offering a 7-figure Lottery grant)!!
If people want to contact us, they’ve a better chance by
emailing us on firstname.lastname@example.org
With kind regards
Badger Baiting Evidence man beaten up!
July 26th, 2010
The BBC are reporting the worrying news that a Northern
Ireland man has been very badly beaten up because he passed information about
their badger baiting activities to the authorities. See the following BBC news
story for more details:
As a badger specialist, I’m acutely aware of the risks
getting involved monitoring badger baiting activities and being seen to report
this to the Police and others. Badger baiters are some of the most violent
criminal scum in the country – many of whom has criminal records for violence.
Importantly, such violence is not always limited to violence against other gang
members or people who “grass them up”. Some badger baiters have convictions for
family-related violence against wives and girlfriends; so they are not nice
people to live or work with either.
If you are involved in wildlife protection or monitoring,
it’s worth taking some time to think about what the risks are if you monitor
badger setts, birds nests and the habitats of other protected species. Of
course, you might have a fall or a trip; so you need to tell someone where you
are going and when you are due back so they know to get help if you don’t get
back at the agreed time. But, what about the electronic trail many people leave
on social/networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Think about it for a
minute! If a badger baiter or an egg collector went to prison because of the
evidence you gave, could they find you? What information can they find out by
looking you up on Twitter or Facebook? Can they find out your home address or
where you work? Can they find out what you look like or what car you drive or
where your children live? Are you being a bit “careless” with your Facebook
privacy settings. As a test, try Googling yourself to see what a badger baiter
could find out about you – it might be a lot more than you realise!
The good news about monitoring badger baiters is that there
is now some VERY sophisticated technology available which can get reliable
evidence without the need to risk human involvement. It is possible to use soil
samples to prove that a badger digger was at a specific crime scene. It is
possible to show that a single animal hair in his van or 4*4 comes from a badger
and that the badger lived in the sett which was dug. Most importantly, modern
CCTV cameras are so tiny they can be concealed to make them totally invisible.
They record excellent quality audio and daylight/night-vision video; and beam
the information via a wireless link to a computer using internet technology.
In past years, badger baiters have been able to rely on
crimes going undetected in the remote country areas. Modern technology is
becoming cheaper to install and more reliable; which makes it more likely that
badger baiters will be caught and convicted. They need to remember that you
can’t intimidate a covert CCTV camera or a forensics lab not to give evidence