Broc (The Badger) is the newsletter of Badgerwatch (Ireland) Newsletter
no.32. Autumn 2005. Website:
National co-ordinator: Bernadette Barrett, 5, Tyrone
Avenue. Waterford, Rep of Ireland.
THE BADGERS OF NORTHERN IRELAND
By Timothy P Clarke
Badgerwatch Ireland member and journalist
The Badger is a popular wild mammal in Northern Ireland and has a widespread distribution with even established colonies in the heart of the capital city, Belfast.
However due to its timidness and nocturnal nature the only sightings most people get of these fascinating creatures is when they become road casualties due their well trodden paths often crossing major motorways and carriageways and many suffer this fate especially at this time of year.
At the last count back in 1993 there were an estimated 38,000 in residence but this number has increased due in part to the greater awareness of the laws that protect them. However in Northern Ireland the badger is under intense pressure at present with the Ulster Farmers Union pressing for the introduction of a cull in an attempt to counteract the spread of TB in cattle. They cite the four areas report as their justification even though the authors of this rather complicated document say themselves that this is not the way forward.
One of course sympathises with farmers who have TB in their herd but to demonise the badger is grossly unfair and this is what some of the local farming journals seem to constantly do. Over 80% of badgers culled in the south had no trace of the disease at all and the method used to capture them ie snares before they were shot was far from humane. There is no justification for culling healthy badgers here or anywhere else. All efforts should be put into finding a vaccine, as that would benefit all parties. Stephen Philpott, Chief executive of the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says," The USPCA is concerned about the attribution, without clear scientific evidence, of the spread of bovine tuberculosis to the badger population.
If the evidence of properly conducted research exists it should be placed in the public domain and subjected to scrutiny and discussion. Until this is done a minority of farmers will contravene the wildlife order by destroying badgers and their habitat."
The Badger is protected under article 10 of this wildlife Northern Ireland order 1985 which makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure, take or possess the animal or attempt to do so. Also its home is protected and it is an offence to damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place which a Badger uses for protection. Penalties for offences under this legislation can be fines of up to £5000 for each offence but in reality fines of this magnitude would be a rarity.
The Environment and heritage service have produced a booklet entitled, "Badgers and Development" which sets out guidelines that must be followed by developers when they want to build in an area where badgers live. It is the responsibility of the developers to show that their proposals will not have a detrimental impact on badgers. In the case of mitigation measures must be put in place to safeguard the animals, their setts and their foraging habitat.
There is the perception that some developers comply because they want to avoid bad publicity more than anything but anyway a Badger expert is pivotal to the process right from the undertaking of an initial survey through to planning permission being given. John Milburne, the Wildlife Liaison Officer for EHS who was recently deservedly awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) for his work with Badgers and Bats can issue a license if any disturbance is to be caused to the animals. These licenses can only be obtained after full planning permission has been granted so there is no conflict with the planning process
There has sometimes been a problem with road subsidence caused by Badgers but the Roads service together with EHS have attempted to address this to the benefit of both the animals and motorists. Two methods can be used to construct a roof for the sett, firstly pre-cast slabs and secondly poured concrete. John explains, "In two cases one in county Down and another in County Armagh badger setts were provided with reinforced concrete roofs to safely support the road surface. This allows the badger to keep their chosen network of tunnels and chambers underneath without the danger of subsidence to the road above. This is a solution which enables us, on the one hand, to protect the badgers as we are legally obliged to do, while on the other, to keep roads safe for motorists."
While many work in a positive way to improve the lot of the Badger our nocturnal friends still face dangers posed by the true dregs of our society. The despicable activity of Badger Baiting and hunting sadly still goes on the North although due to its clandestine nature it is difficult for the authorities to detect the perpetrators.
However only last year as a result of local surveillance graphic footage of a group of vile monsters digging out a young Badger from its sett on the picturesque Ards Peninsula in county Down was shown on Ulster Television primetime news and the horrific footage clearly showed one man encouraging his fighting dog to undertake a prolonged attack on the defenceless animal while he stood and watched and in fact was seen kicking the cub. The callousness and cowardice displayed by this evil individual was plain for all to see and rightly caused a public outcry. A picture of the man appeared in various media and he later handed himself in to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Surely such a cruel thug should receive a long custodial sentence not a paltry fine and another question must be asked why were the rest of his wicked gang not apprehended? During the disturbing report Stephen Phillpot informed viewers that such activities were common place in Northern Ireland on Sunday afternoons which was a shocking revelation in a so called modern country.
Over the years the society received tip offs as to where this was taking place and who was involved but such information has unfortunately become scarce. Lawmakers must introduce long custodial sentences for such offences and as well as banning those involved from ever keeping animals again. This would also give members of the public more confidence to contact the authorities when they see offences taking place rather than turning a blind eye.
Both the USPCA and the PSNI Wildlife Liaison Officer work tirelessly to apprehend those who threaten the well-being of badgers in such a vile manner but they need the support of the public and the courts to do so because in reality the current laws are simply an ass in practice.
The Badger has many friends and admirers in Northern Ireland and we all hope he has a bright future ahead.
Please send to BadgerWatch Ireland any printed items on the
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DEATH OF A YOUNG BADGER
She was a soft target from the start. The young sow, possibly one of last year’s cubs, lay exhausted in the wire snare that now pulled tightly around her hind quarters.
She had spent many hours during the night trying to free herself. Her night’s work was clear to anyone passing by. The fresh mud that covered her striped face bore testimony to her gallant efforts. The loose earth, softened after the previous day’s torrential rain was scattered around the perimeter of the hole she had been excavating. It was her final bid to free herself of the snare, but it had all been in vain.Now she had given up, too tired and too weary to go any further. Instinctively, she knew her life was over . She lay with her head resting on one of her front paws and awaited the shot that would end her young life. Her small carcass would then be bagged, tagged and casually tossed into the back of the trapper’s vehicle along with the rest of the morning’s carcasses and taken away for autopsy.
Far from being an illegal wire snare, set by the local lowlife, this was in fact a very legal and sanitised exercise. Ireland’s Department of Agriculture and Food (DAF) had secured the necessary licence from The National Parks and Wildlife Service to snare and shoot badgers.
Now she was merely one more badger to be added to the list of almost 50,000 casualties that DAF have killed during the past fifteen years or so for their alleged role in the spread of Tuberculosis to cattle.
Later that morning passers-by would halt and look at the spot. Among the bluebells and primroses, the sunshine picked out the small pool of blood in the clay. It told its own sad story on that summer morning in May, 2005.
Don’t Forget to Write/Fax/E-mail………………………………
Contacting politicians about badger welfare is a vital part of our campaign work. Please contact your local TD about the issue of badger welfare and urge him or her to support any political move that will help to improve badger and indeed wildlife protection in this country.
Contact details of your local TD can be found at: www. irlgov.ie/oireachtas or in the Green Pages Section of your local telephone directory. Contact the Agriculture Minister, Mary Coughlan, and express your views on the treatment of badgers by the Department of Agriculture:
Minister Mary Coughlan
Agriculture & Food
Dublin 2 Ireland
T: 1890 200510 – 01-6072000 IT: + 353 1 6072000
F: 01-6616263 IT: + 353 1 6616263
Every contact, be it by telephone, fax or e-mail counts. By contacting politician, you are helping to keep the issue of animal welfare on the political agenda.
Charles Clarke urged to act against unlawful badger killing
The National Federation of Badger Groups (NFBG) yesterday wrote to Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, calling for action to be taken against farmers who have admitted killing badgers.
The illegal activities of a small number of farmers in south-west England were highlighted during recent broadcasts of the BBC's Farming Today programme on Radio Four , and also in Country file on BBC1 . It was reported that the farmers had killed badgers on their land by pumping tractor exhaust fumes into the animals' setts. Such actions are illegal under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992  and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 . The NFBG has now called on Mr Clarke to instruct Chief Constables to investigate these reports and to prosecute those who have broken the law.
Richard Turner, Vice Chair of the NFBG said today: "The farmers have claimed that their actions were necessary to protect cattle from bovine TB. Yet there is no reliable scientific evidence to show that killing badgers will have such an effect . They also claim that they have only killed diseased badgers. But there is simply no way that farmers can tell whether or not badgers in a particular sett have TB . Even in areas where there is a lot of TB in cattle, 6 out of every 7 badgers are free from the disease ."
Mr Turner went on to highlight the welfare aspects of the illegal gassing of badgers. "The farmers have said that the badgers died quickly, but as the animals will have died out of sight underground, how can we believe this? The Government banned the gassing of badgers as long ago as 1982, when scientists showed that it took more than 30 minutes to kill a badger . It has also been shown that animals killed with exhaust fumes experienced convulsions before death . The deliberate infliction of such cruelty on badgers is totally unacceptable."
The National Farmers Union also came in for strong criticism from Mr Turner. "A recent report in The Times alleged that when the NFU found out that farmers had been illegally gassing badgers, they were 'so impressed' that they asked Margaret Beckett, the Rural Affairs Minister, to order more badgers to be killed in this way . This is deplorable.
"The NFU has admitted that it is aware of the gassing of badgers by farmers, and in the hope that this would be adopted by DEFRA as a policy it has said that it would be 'happy to provide further information' . If the NFU had any consideration for animal welfare and for the rule of law, it would have passed its information on to the police. We challenge the NFU to do so now."The Government often makes statements advocating a zero-tolerance approach to crime. It is time to extend that policy to wildlife crime. The Home Secretary must send a clear message that those who persecute badgers will be brought to justice
Minister Brown opens international conference on bovine tuberculosis
22nd – 26th Aug. ‘05
Mr. John Brown TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, today opened the fourth International Conference on Bovine Tuberculosis in Dublin Castle. The conference, which is being attended by over 300 delegates from 35 countries, is being jointly sponsored by the Department of Agriculture and Food and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, (DARD) Northern Ireland.
Minister Brown said that while Bovine Tuberculosis has been eradicated in many countries, it continues to be a problem in a number of countries and regions where special factors exists. “Wildlife vectors have been found to play an important role in the persistence of the disease in the cattle population in Ireland, in the UK, and in New Zealand. In this regard, the results of the Four Areas project which were published in December 2004 confirmed the role of the transmission of infection from cattle to badger, as a primary constraint to the eradication pf tuberculosis in the national herd. This project demonstrated that, in order to eradicate tuberculosis from the Irish cattle population, Ireland will have to sustainably control tuberculosis in badgers, having regard to environmental considerations and the legal protection afforded to badgers under the Berne Convention” he said.
Minister Brown said that, in the short term, the Department of Agriculture and Food is implementing a strategic programme for wildlife control when and where wildlife is implicated in on-farm breakdowns of Bovine Tb. In the longer term, Ireland is committed to the development of an effective badger vaccine as a distinct component of bovine tuberculosis eradication programme. The objective will be to reduce disease transmission between infected badgers and susceptible cattle.
The themes for this year’s conference include diagnostics, the epidemiology of Bovine Tuberculosis and strategies to address the wildlife reservoir including vaccination of wildlife and the relevant vaccination of cattle in the control of this disease.
In conclusion, the Minister said that the success of these meetings is clearly evident from the fact that this is now the fourth such meeting in the series but also from the progress made by many of the participant countries in achieving their goals. He congratulated Professor Simon More and Professor Dan Collins and their hard working committee from both parts of the island for the commitment and dedication they have shown in organising this conference.
22 August, 2005.
Close encounters of the furry kind
Earlier this year I agreed to foster Maria, a beautiful young vixen for our neighbour, Kilkenny SPCA until they were in a position to relocate her. She remained with me for about two months and what a fascinating young lady she turned out to be.
From the start, she took all the decisions. She decided she would prefer to remain in the garden, day and night. This proved no problem as the garden, though small enough, is fully fenced off. Initially she had been kept indoors and was going out for periods only, during the day. Next she selected her sleeping quarters, a comfy rabbit hutch in the garden shed. Food varied. All kinds of everything were inspected before being accepted. She preferred meat with bone attached. Freshly killed carrion from side of road was picked up and taken home as an offering, much to the horror of other occupants in the car.
This house is also home to a number of felines who, out of the goodness of their hearts, allow me to share it with them. The reaction from friends to Maria’s arrival was predictable and I knew well what was coming. I had heard it before when the badger cub was with me last year. Surely, they said, she will attack and savage the cats. Nothing could be further from the truth. Both fox and cats had indulged in the usual preliminary and introductory sniffing session and all went well after that. They actually shared their food with her when they were feeding.
Human contact was kept to a minimum as Maria would eventually be returned to the wild. She seemed content to entertain herself and would disappear into the chosen
shrubbery whenever I ventured out in the garden. Although she remained out of sight I knew my every move was being monitored by a pair of unseen eyes.
Holes were dug and surplus food was buried for future consumption. Unfortunately, Maria’s actions were also being closely observed by Oona, the kitten, who lost little time in unearthing the stored food supply. But, youth is a great bond even among unrelated species and soon the pair were best buddies, chasing each other around the garden.
Maria grew from a frail greyish cub to a beautiful and very inquisitive young fox. The time came when the KSPCA arrived to reclaim her. The future of any animal returning to the wild is a cause for great anxiety to those who have had a hand in the caring and rearing of them.
We can but wish her a long life and a safe journey. May she be safe from the sound of the hunting horn, from the terrier men whose path she may cross, from the snares, the poisoned meat and the trigger-happy gunmen. While there are many kind and caring people out there it only takes one animal abuser to undo their good work. Yet, what chance is there for Maria and her kin?
of struggle to snare animal baiters Evidence needed to stop cruelty
have defended themselves against accusations of inaction.
"I have made five phone calls to the police and these men are still just as active every night," he said.
"These are evil and wicked men.” They put the lurchers on them and they tear the animal asunder.” Am I wasting my time phoning the police and will I give up on this issue?" (pto)
Illegal badger digging can be stopped.