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When badgers cause, or apparently cause, damage to property, the effects often look worse than they really are and the owners may be sufficiently aggrieved to want the badgers killed or removed. However, there are many actions which can be taken before this is necessary, or even considered. Sometimes this is as easy as fastening your dustbin lid down securely, for example, by fastening a strong "bungee-cord" through the lid and the handles!

Badgers have been persecuted for centuries, and on several occasions Parliament has decided to pass laws which protect the badger and its underground home (called a sett).

Accordingly, the law does not allow any-one to kill a badger - except under the most extreme conditions (as described below).

It is easier to go through the scenarios in which killing a badger is permitted, and then to see what is left. The law which applies is The Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

  • If you are accidentally (and unavoidably) involved in a motor vehicle accident with a badger; as a result of which the badger dies; that killing was not illegal.

  • If you come across a badger which is seriously injured, then killing it as an act of mercy is not illegal.

  • Killing a badger for scientific research purposes, as authorised by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

There is also an argument that killing a badger is not illegal, if that badger was caught inside the hen-house and seen to be committing the act of killing poultry for the first time, if the killing of those poultry could not have been foreseen. Given that poultry-owners should expect their poultry to be prone to being attacked by dogs, foxes or mink; they should maintain poultry-houses to a high-enough standard to exclude all wildlife that might pose a threat. Accordingly, our view is that this defence would prove very difficult to rely on; as they would have to show that they caught the rogue badger "red-handed" committing its first offence. If there had been previous badger damage; or the badger was a well known "villain", they would have no option in law, apart from applying for a badger licence.

There is no basis in law for killing a badger based on nuisance value (such as domestic garden damage).

There is no basis in law for killing a badger based on a desire to build on or otherwise alter the use of land. If some-one wants to build a motorway through a badger sett, the badgers can not be killed. With a suitable badger licence, they can be re-homed, but killing is not an option.

So far as vets and wildlife rescuers are concerned, there is no provision for killing (euthanising or culling) a badger because no-one locally has the "correct facilities" or the "knowledge" to look after it. Whilst killing a badger with a serious injury is allowed as an act of mercy; the killing of a badger with a non-serious injury is not. If in doubt, contact either the Badger Trust or Secret World or even your local Badger Group before you administer a lethal dose or a lethal drug. The Badger Trust and Secret World have extensive experience of treating, rehabilitating and releasing badgers back into the wild; and they both follow an excellent Code of Conduct concerned with wild badgers. It would be a terrible shame to extinguish the life of a well-loved wild animal, when a single telephone call might have found a solution. Euthanising a badger without good reason could also justify a criminal complaint being made under The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 which would not be brilliant news for any veterinary practice!

In the event that badgers are causing serious damage to land, crops, poultry, or any other form of property (such as a house), then they may be killed under licence. However, such killing will be permitted only under the terms of a licence; and the killing may not take place until the licence has been granted. The term serious effectively means something like subsidence or structural damage or something else which gives rise to a serious health and safety problem. Badgers digging under a church tower could be regarded as potentially serious, but an isolated hole in a remote corner of an otherwise beautiful garden would not.

It can also means repeated incidents of serious damage to crops, where there is a high likelihood that the damage will be repeated in the future and can not be prevented by other means. In the majority of cases, further repeats of the damage may be prevented by appropriate fencing; or if the particular crop will not be grown again at that location. There is no basis in law for killing a badger as a "pre-emptive-strike", just in case it might do some damage at some time in the future.

At one time, for example, badgers who excavated setts under roads were almost routinely killed. Nowadays, it is possible to strip the top couple of feet off the road, fit a layer of reinforced concrete panels, and re-lay the tarmac over the top. In this way the badgers can still have the safety and security of their setts; and the road builders have the satisfaction of having done one permanent badger-friendly job; rather than having to come back year after year to kill more and more badgers and do more and more road repairs.

Generally, as the environmental lobby becomes more vocal and important, the circumstances in which badgers are killed can be expected to become fewer in number. As badgers are a protected species, we think this is entirely appropriate.

"The world of badgers is in some ways analogous with the human world. Like us, their behaviour is greatly influenced by their need for homes and living space, and being social like we are, they too have their problems of learning how to live together ..... and with us"
Ernest Neal


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