Concern over badger baiting laws
8 November 2007 - BBC News
Only four people have been prosecuted under new badger baiting laws despite
one incident being reported every week, BBC Scotland has learned. The law was
changed in 2004 in an attempt to make it easier to prosecute people who
interfere with badger setts. But investigators said it was still often
impossible to gather enough evidence against the organised gangs who trap and
kill the animals. They called for more resources to be put towards combating the
Police believe many badger baiting gangs are also involved in other serious
The gangs send small dogs like Jack Russells wearing sophisticated electronic
tracking devices into setts to find the badgers, which are then dug out with
shovels. They either use dogs to kill the badgers at the scene, or take them
away and use them in organised dog fights where gamblers bet big money on the
outcome. The bloody fights often result in the dogs also suffering severe
injuries. They are rarely treated by vets, who would be able to identify what
caused the wounds.
Doreen Graham of the Scottish SPCA said its investigators received at least
one report of badger baiting every week, but it was often difficult to gather
enough evidence for a prosecution. She added: "Always we are constrained with
the number of bodies we have at any one time. We do the best with what we have
and are committed to getting these people to court but we need the courts to
back that up as well."
Mrs Graham said the public had a major role to play in stamping out badger
baiting, which has been illegal since 1835. She said: "If you hear dogs barking
or digging going on don't get involved because a lot of these chaps are involved
in other areas of criminality and can be dangerous, but pick up the phone and
let either the Scottish SPCA or the police know and we will get there as quickly
as we can."
Ian Hutchison, a development officer with Scottish Badgers, has been running
a training course to help police officers identify and protect badger setts. He
said: "I think the difficulty until now has been the investigation side. It is
always very difficult to get the appropriate amount of evidence together to take
a case to court, but it is improving. We have this tag wildlife crime when in
actual fact it is not wildlife crime, it is crime. It is a criminal matter that
we want the police to investigate and they are getting better at it but we would
certainly like to see more resources getting put into it."
Known badger baiting blackspots in Scotland include Ayrshire, Lanarkshire,
the Borders, Lothian and Fife.
Tom Dysart, a procurator fiscal with responsibility for prosecuting wildlife
cases across Scotland, admitted that suspects often had to be caught red-handed
for a conviction to be secured. Mr Dysart said: "I am pleased to say the police
are moving towards intelligence-led investigation and that's coupled with
advances in forensic techniques and that means we have a wider range of
opportunities to detect and convict. I think the main deterrent though is
detection - if we can catch them and bring them to justice then that is going to
be pretty effective."
Anyone caught badger baiting can face up to three years in prison, with a
maximum fine of £5,000.
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