Broc Number 35. Spring 2007
An Broc (The Badger) is the newsletter of Badgerwatch (Ireland).
5, Tyrone Avenue Waterford, Lismore lawn. Rep. of Ireland.
Co-ordinator; Bernie Barrett Ph. No: 00-353 (0)51-373876. Mobile number: 087-9394096
Cruelty tourism knows no frontiers
UK badger- baiters are said to be smuggling badgers from the UK because their Irish cousins are scarce.
Dealing with various aspects of badger abuse, we in Badgerwatch are seldom shocked but ‘whispers’ appears to be presently circulating in this country. It is no secret that cruelty tourists from the UK have travelled over here from time to time to enjoy their sordid ‘sport’ of holiday badger-digging and baiting. More than a decade ago, Channel 4 exposed this cruel trade in animal pain. “The Killing Set” shocked viewers who were revolted by the most barbaric scenes of animal cruelty. It also uncovered the link between world of fox digging (unfortunately not a crime) and the highly illegal underworld of badger-killers. Five individuals were convicted as a result of this expose. Badgers are protected by the 1976 Wildlife Act (Ireland) and are an Appendix 111 protected species under the Bern Convention to which Ireland is a signatory. The Wildlife Service and Gardai are responsible for enforcing the legislation necessary for their protection, but there are just too few conservation rangers to cover the entire country especially at weekends.
The sordid world of the badger baiters is an extremely difficult one to penetrate. By its very nature it requires it to be shrouded in secrecy. These individuals often communicate using coded messages on the Internet.
Tips and contacts are passed on at the various working terrier shows which seems to be as near as one can get to the public face of badger baiting in Ireland. It might not be unusual to recognise the name of a convicted badger baiter listed as acting judge of the Patterdales, Border Terriers, lurchers or other ‘working’ dogs on show.
By all accounts the elite clientele of cruelty tourism are not travelling empty handed but are now, out of necessity, said to be importing their own badgers from the U.K. because of an alleged scarcity of badgers here. Too far fetched? Read the heading below picture and think again!
The Brocky Horror Show still on the road.
Agriculture Minister reveals 6,000 badger snares are set nightly on farmlands across Ireland. (See page 3)
The question (Below) was tabled by Deputy Tony Gregory who is Vice President of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports
Question 451 - Answered on 27th February, 2007
Tony Gregory: To ask the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of snares laid by her Department officials to snare badgers in 2006; if her Department has received complaints that other wildlife and domestic animals are being caught or injured in these snares; if she will review this practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Ref No: 7116/07. Written reply.
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan): My Department implements a wildlife strategy, which includes the targeted removal of badgers, under licence issued by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government where they are implicated in an outbreak of TB. Capturing is undertaken in areas where serious outbreaks of Tuberculosis have been identified in cattle herds and where an epidemiological investigation carried out by my Department's Veterinary Inspectorate has found that badgers are the likely source of infection.
Most of the operational work involved is carried out by staff from the Farm Relief Service Co-op (FRS) who are closely supervised by staff from my Department. For this, a "stopped restraint" of a type approved under Section 34(2) of the 1976 Wildlife Act is used.
During the peak months (spring/early summer and autumn), each FRS staff person lays and monitors between 60-100 restraints and at peak times there may be up to 6,000 restraints on farmland on a given night. My Department does not have precise figures in relation to the number of restraints set annually. All restraints are checked daily to ensure trapped animals do not suffer any unavoidable trauma. Captured badgers are humanely euthanized.
The landowner's permission is first obtained and landowners adjacent to where capturing operations are ongoing are similarly notified before restraints are set. This ensures that farmed livestock are grazed elsewhere and minimises the risk that domestic animals become accidentally trapped.
The level of non-badger capture is very low and Department staff report 6-8 captures of dogs per year in each county. No complaints have been received by staff of my Department in relation to these captures. Any domestic animals including dogs captured are released unharmed during the morning inspections. Dog owners have a responsibility to confine their animals at night, as dogs should not be roaming freely due to the threats they pose to sheep.
My Department is committed to a research project with UCD on the development of a vaccine for use in badgers that would lead to a reduction in the current high levels of TB infection in that species. It is hoped that this strategy will in the long term reduce the need to cull TB infected badgers as tuberculosis levels falls in both cattle and badgers. However, any vaccine will not be available for wider use in the immediate future and the existing strategy will remain in place for some time.
My Department is satisfied that its current badger removal policy is justified and has contributed to the decline in the number of TB reactors and the costs associated with bovine TB
Badger snaring must stop now Minister !
Minister Mary Coughlan’s statement regarding the extremely high number of badger snares (6,000) set nightly on Irish farms by Dept. of Agric. and Food (DAF) operatives is certainly mind-boggling. Are Irish tax-payers footing the bill for this, the most intensive cull yet? This nightly assault on a protected species has the blessing of none other than the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government where the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) grants the necessary licence.
Badgerwatch would say that the Minister’s Department should record the precise figures for number of snares set annually and not only that, precise figures should also be available from each of the Laboratories stating the annual number of badgers delivered to them. Badgerwatch has in the past, been unsuccessful in accessing this information on Laboratory data.
The present culling spree was agreed under the terms of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (Fairness for whom?) Former culling activities seem to have operated under the guise of ‘Scientific Research’. This time it’s different – appears to be simply plain slaughter of badgers. The PPF cull commenced sometime in 2004 and will run for another two years.
Former DAF Minister, Joe Walsh promised in 2000 “In addition to current arrangements relating to wildlife, take a pro-active approach in each DVO area, using 75 dedicated Departmental and Farm Relief Service personnel, to the removal of all sources of infection in the 20% of the country which yields some 50% of current TB reactors; the distribution of these resources will be finalised in consultation with the farm organisations”.
The 20% of the entire country (referred to by Minister Walsh) consists of small pockets of culling areas of less than 2sq. km around infected farms. According to Farmers Guardian 24/11/06 not more than 30% of agricultural land is allowed to be within badger capturing area. This is the equivalent of clearing badgers permanently, from an entire province. Cleared areas are normally checked annually for renewed badger activity in which case snares will be put on place once more.
Badgerwatch believes that this is in breach of Article 8 of the Bern Convention. The Bern Convention is Europe’s longest-standing wildlife treaty. Article eight clearly states: “Contracting parties shall prohibit the use of all indiscriminating means of capture and killing and the use of all means capable of causing local disappearance of, or disturbance to populations of species.”
Note the reference is to “ which yield some 50% of current TB reactors” So, at this point in time, there’s absolutely no proof that any of the local badgers might be carrying the BTB infection. Transmission and mode of transmission remains scientifically unproven, All clearly irrelevant now because with the removal of all sources of the infection, every badger is targeted to be killed. This includes the 80% of healthy animals who lives will also be sacrificed.
Once a sett has been identified close to an infected farm, trapping by DAF’s operatives will commence. Trappers work on a fortnightly basis and snares are set 12 working nights out of 14. 6,000 snares laid nightly on farms adds up to a truly astonishing figure. Yet, according to the Department, a mere total of 5,589 badgers were snared in 2006.
There were actually more than sufficient snares set down on any one night that alone were capable of trapping the entire 2006 casualties! Unlikely, yes but feasible with an estimated 200,000 adult badgers moving out on nocturnal forays, paying courtesy calls on Irish farmland, one could imagine a higher number of them taking up the offer of slipping into the comfort of a Department multi strand wire snare.
Department of Agriculture’s badger snaring operations are ongoing nightly for nine months of the year, commencing in early September and ending 31st May. In recent years the Government has recognised a pseudo ‘closed season’ for June, July and August. This respite is more to facilitate the Department of Agriculture rather than the needs of the badger during its most vulnerable breeding period (January - May). It is a known fact that DAF had always suspended snaring operations for the months in question prior to giving it formal status.
There is another factor which merits a satisfactory response from DAF. This was brought to our attention when Badgerwatch was contacted by farmers in zones identified as being in BTB infection areas. A number of farmers had received a written circular from DAF stating that operatives from the District Veterinary Office (DVO) in their area were seeking help in locating badger setts and would be calling on them. Others would say the first they knew of it was when trappers appeared uninvited on to their land. The last paragraph on this circular states:
“When no reply is received on foot of this notice it will be assumed that the keeper to whom the notice is sent will have no objections to staff from this Department carrying out their duties as necessary on land farmed by him/her”. Pre-paid envelope enclosed
This is to say the least, quite an assumption. It has not taken into account that the landowner may never have actually received the document, may have been absent, hospitalised, had mislaid/forgotten to return the form (as many of us would) or for any other valid reason, be unable to reply before badger trappers descended on his land.
One would imagine that private land cannot be entered on to without the permission of the owner. We do know, on the other hand that the actual licence to snare, as is granted by the NPWS, clearly states that it does not give automatic right of entry. So, why are some people finding Department trappers on their property? We await a response Minister Coughlan to our second query on this subject.
|To Agriculture Minister M. Coughlan
I acknowledge with thanks your letter of February 2007. Regrettably, this did not supply the information requested. It is my understanding that the right of public officials to enter property with lawful justification is heavily regulated by statute law (for example, the right of Gardai to search land and premises under various Acts dealing with the misuse of drugs). Could you please direct me to the legislation which entitles officials of the Department of Agriculture to enter land for survey purposes without the express permission of the landowner, or which entitles them to the presumption of such permission where it has not been given.
Badgerwatch (Ireland) March 2nd’07
Not every farmer wants to play host to the badger trappers. They had never suffered problems with their generations of badgers on their land and held them dear. Their cattle never down with BTB. The tragic fact is that keeping the trappers out may not save their badgers.
Farmers have contacted Badgerwatch and related more experiences occurring during snaring. Their own ‘resident’ badgers got trapped while passing through adjacent holdings. Badgers in a given location all share and follow their own, well-worn traditional paths. This is well known Their paths are extremely easy to find and follow. In situations where a capturing operation in progress on a neighbouring farm, any badger following its traditional path through that farmland having exited the safety of its home farm may be met with a wall of snares. In short, once it leaves the protection of it’s home farm that badger becomes fair game, it would appear.
According to DAF officials, their culling strategy will not eradicate more than 30% of the badger population, presently estimated to be 200,000 although there’s some doubt now as to the accuracy of the estimation. For all the years of killing badgers, progress seems to be slow on reducing the level of TB in cattle. (See below) Yet, with all the emphasis on decimating our badger population, Irish officials now refer to the culling programme as a ‘stop-gap measure’ that will not eradicate TB in cattle. Really?
Then, why have DAF eradicated a grand total of 57, 093 badgers to date, most of whom were perfectly healthy animals?
Its past time to call a halt to the killing.
The Farmers Journal, News 20/01/07
But TB persists
While the news on brucellosis is very positive, the long running target to eradicate bovine tuberculosis (TB) remains elusive. Provisional figures from the Department of Agriculture that that 24, 104 animals were disclosed as reactors in 2006 compared to 25,884 in2005.This represents a drop of just 7%, despite on-going control measures. The provisional estimate from ERAD is that, 3,619 herds were recorded as restricted on 31st December 2006 compared to 3,963 herds restricted on 31st December 2005 . This represents a drop of 344 herds, or 8%. Not all test results are available at this point and the Department stress that final figures will not be available until early February.
The average number of reactors per 1000 tests (APT) was 2.7 last year, compared to 2.86 in 2005. This represents a 5% reduction.
This is Echo. One of the many animals who have had the ultimate privilege of getting caught in a department snare. Echo is not the only one of the family pets to fall prey. Luckily enough, the owners became aware of the situation before any great harm was done. Animals whether family pets or other wildlife, all are traumatised by the experience. We must stress, of the animals that Badgerwatch has been told of, all were caught in daylight hours. Snares are set at evening time and are sometimes in place for up to 17 hours . Its often midday before the trapper completes the checking of every sett. Therefore, it can be said, that any animal captured (badger or otherwise) is abandoned in a state of high risk both from other animals and humans in the interim period.
Article: Campaign to highlight threat to native wildlife species
Author: Liam Reid
A public awareness campaign is to be launched later today to highlight the threat to at least 150 species of native Irish wildlife, some of which face extinction unless serious remedial action is undertaken. Species to be covered as part of the campaign include animals, birds and fish that have become national symbols, including the salmon, corncrake and mountain hare.
The campaign will attempt to engage not only the general public, but will also target sectors that are believed to be the main causes of the threat to Irish biodiversity, including the construction industry and farming.
Called "Notice Nature", the campaign will involve a series of local meetings to highlight specific animals and plants that are under threat in local areas. The campaign will also include advice for builders, farmers and other groups on measurers that can be taken to protect biodiversity in their areas.
The campaign, which will be launched later today by Minister for the Environment Dick Roche, is part of the country's commitment under international biodiversity agreements, which include an aim of halting the loss of biodiversity within the EU by 2010.
The wildlife current present in Ireland includes 31 species of mammal, 27 of fish, 12,000 of flowering plants and trees, 3,500 species of fungi and 12, 00 species of insects. Experts estimate that anywhere between 150 and 200 species are under threat. Some species have suffered a serious decline in recent years and could face extinction if measures are not introduced to protect them.
A total of 18 bird species native to Ireland are on the "red list" of animals that have suffered a 50 per cent decline in breeding numbers in the last 25 years. Species of birds include the black-necked grebe, the hen harrier, grey partridge, corncrake and barn owl. A further 77 species of native Irish birds have undergone a decline of between 25 per cent and 50 per cent across Europe.
Mammals that are on the endangered species list include the red squirrel, otter, mountain hare and all bat species in the country. The natterjack toad, native only to a small part of Co. Kerry is also on the endangered list in Ireland.
Elizabeth Arnett, project manager for the Notice Nature campaign. told The Irish Times that it was aimed principally at highlighting the nature and wildlife around people, and how important it was to the quality of life people experience. She said Ireland's natural heritage was often taken for granted, compared with its artistic and literary heritage and the aim was to encourage people to take more care.
"Not protecting Ireland's natural heritage of plants, birds, animals and their habitats is akin to taking a painting from the National Gallery of Art every month and burning it." End.
Irish Independent 16th January 2007
Article: REPS 4 sparks boom in hedgerow planting
Author: Declan O' Brien
Enough new hedgerows to line both sides of the road from Paris to Kiev are expected to be planted by farmers during the lifetime of the current REPS 4 programme. It has emerged that close to 14,900 land-owners who have signed up for the latest instalment of the environmental protection scheme have chosen to plant a hedgerow as part of their REPS plan. As at least 300m of hedgerow must be set by each of these farmers Teagasc estimate that more than 4,4470km (2,800 miles) will be planted in total over the next few years. A comparable level of planting has not taken place in Ireland since the Enclosure Acts of the 18th century, compelled the country's landlords and large farmers to fence their estates. The scale of the new plantings will be augmented by the rejuvenation of 2,640km (1,650 miles) of existing hedgerows. The management option has been adopted by 13,200 applicant, with each having to rejuvenate 200m of hedge. Under REPS 4, farmers must comply with 11 basic measures-which include having a grassland management plan, protecting water courses, retaining wildlife habitats and maintaining field boundaries-as well as adopting two optional measures. Among the 26 optional measures which are available to applicants, hedgerow planting and rejuvenation have proven particularly popular with farmers who are not in tillage or those whose holdings do not have stone wall field boundaries. ........... the rest of the article deals with Teagasc open days to be held for farmers regarding hedgerow planting and rejuvenation.