Farming News - Convictions over badger killing in Somerset

Convictions over badger killing in Somerset

01 Nov 2013
Frontdesk / Livestock


Two dairy farmers from Somerset have been convicted of attempting to illegally kill badgers, by blocking holes in setts and piping in carbon monoxide from a car exhaust to kill the animals underground.


Two Somerset farmers have been found guilty of gassing badgers

Father and son David and Philip Brown were fined £1,370 apiece at Yeovil Magistrates' Court on Thursday. The pair, from Batcombe and Bruton in Somerset pleaded guilty to offences under the Protection of the Badgers Act after they blocked 17 holes of a badger sett in April 2013.


They claimed to have taken the action after finding a sick badger on their land and fearing the animal could pass bovine TB to their dairy herd, which had previously been affected by the disease.  


RSPCA Inspector Ian Burns said, "This was a very inhumane way to try and kill these poor animals. They could have been trapped underground and potentially suffered a prolonged, slow death. Badgers are a protected animal and, like all animals, deserve to be treated with compassion. The defendants' actions in this case were deliberate and constituted a significant breach of the law, having the potential to kill numerous animals in an inhumane way."


He added, "We are of course very sympathetic to all farmers dealing with bovine TB in their cattle, but attempting to kill badgers, especially in this cruel and inhumane way, is simply not the answer."


A recent investigation by Sky News revealed evidence of farmers gassing badgers on 14 farms in the South West. Illegal persecution is thought to be one of the reasons behind fluctuating population estimates in the two cull zones, according to wildlife experts, though the government does not acknowledge this (recent estimates suggest badger numbers in the zones dropped by around 1,000 individuals in the space of a year, while monitored populations elsewhere remained stable.)


Also this week, a group of 20 Conservative MPs opposed to badger culling have called on environment secretary Owen Paterson to release results from the two cull zones, where culling was extended last month after markspeople failed to reach their kill targets. The Environment secretary revealed in Parliament that the government is conducting desk-based research on gassing as a means of dispatching badgers as part of its controversial badger cull, due to the shortcomings of shooting.


Wildlife groups have reacted strongly to the news; animal charities and police officers dealing with wildlife crime last year warned that the government's handling of the cull has given the impression that the government has declared "open season on badgers."