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Campaign to tackle badger cruelty

31 August 2004 - BBC News

Animal protection groups and police officers are teaming up to crack down on cruelty to badgers.

The initiative involves the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) and the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW).

A confidential telephone line will offer up to 1,000 for information leading to a person being charged with criminal offences against badgers. Beer mats advertising the phone number will be used to promote the drive.

All of Scotland's police forces are involved with the campaign along with the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Badgers organisation. A similar scheme launched a few years ago in England and Wales, by the RSPCA, has already led to convictions.

In Scotland, there have been no convictions for badger baiting, although other offences such as disturbance have been reported.

Crimes against badgers vary from baiting to disturbance. In baiting or digging, the badgers are deliberately dug from their sets to be attacked by dogs such as terriers, lurchers and bull terriers. Badgers are also trapped or dug from their sets to be taken to a pre-designated area where a pit has been dug.

There the badger will fight against dogs, while money is bet on the outcome and the length of time it will be before the badger is killed. Badgers can seriously injure or kill the dogs that are set upon them. Often their claws or teeth are pulled out with pliers, their jaws broken or the tendons on their legs cut to make them weaker. Other crimes include disturbance by developers, foresters, green keepers and cattle farmers.

However, the main aim of the campaign is to target baiting - a crime which has been taken underground and is well organised.

Superintendent Mike Flynn, of the SSPCA, said: "This is possibly one of the cruellest and most violent acts carried out against animals in Britain today. The stress and suffering endured by both the badgers and the dogs involved can last for several hours before inevitable death. The people carrying out these acts cannot be trusted. They are barbaric and we are appealing to anyone who is aware of such cruelty to call the reward line and bring an end to this horrific activity."

Constable Phil Briggs, wildlife crime officer for Strathclyde Police, said those involved in badger baiting have no place in society.

He said: "This is a barbaric past-time which belongs in the dark ages. The criminals involved in this have no regard for either the welfare of the badgers or the dogs they use. The police will continue to work closely with the SSPCA and Scottish badgers to bring these despicable violent criminals to justice. As with other wildlife criminals, these people are often involved in other forms of criminal activities such as drug dealing and house breaking."

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