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Crackdown appeal after swoops on badger-baiting ring

New legislation to crack down on badger baiting was demanded last night following a major operation against those involved in Northern Ireland.

Raids were carried out across Co Armagh throughout the weekend following a six-month investigation stretching across the Irish border and as far afield as France and the USA.

A website especially set up as part of a sting drew those involved in the badger baiting towards the investigation and helped identify them.

The Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) said the investigation uncovered “glaring shortcomings” in the policing of laws which were supposed to protect the badger and its habitat.

Successful prosecutions by the agencies charged with protecting badgers in Northern Ireland were virtually unheard of |despite hundreds of the animals being torn apart each year, said the charity.

During the weekend swoops several dogs were seized in a joint operation by the PSNI and the USPCA.

The PSNI said: “Police working in partnership with the USPCA attended a number of premises in the Armagh area following reports of animal cruelty.

“In one incident a number of dogs were removed. No arrests were made and investigations are continuing.”

Three pit-bull type terriers were among those seized and taken into care by the USPCA.

Stephen Philpott, chief executive of the USPCA ,said the scale of the persecution of both dogs and badgers shocked everyone involved in the investigation mounted by his organisation and the Sunday Times.

Demanding action, he said: “If the evil of badger persecution is to be eradicated from our countryside it is the responsibility of landowners as custodians of the environment , the Statutory Agencies , whose remit is to protect this valuable creature, and the rural community to be vigilant.”

He added: “Gangs of men with dogs and shovels are not invisible. The PSNI needs information and they need to act on it.

“Northern Ireland remains the only country within the UK that still tolerates hunting with dogs.

“It is our view the Stormont Assembly should now introduce legislation to ban an activity that offers nothing but suffering to our native wildlife.”

He said information uncovered during the USPCA investigation into dog fighting had drawn them into “the murky world of badger persecution; the nauseating |destruction of both a valued member of our native wildlife and of the dogs used in a vile activity that defiles our countryside.”

“Hundreds of our badgers perish each year to satisfy the bloodlust of common criminals.”

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