Baiters in Norfolk are torturing badgers to gain social media status

Masked-up groups in Norfolk are setting their dogs on badgers to kill them, according to local news website Norwich Evening News. The website reported that the gangs are often livestreaming their kills so that viewers can bet on the outcome of the fights between the badgers and the dogs.

Norwich Evening News said:

“Kevin Murphy, 52, of Norfolk Wildlife Rescue, recently went undercover on a badger baiting operation. He witnessed a group of three people bragging that they wanted to ‘kill every badger they came across’.”

Badger baiting

Badger baiting is a cruel bloodsport which is, sadly, very popular in the UK, particularly in Wales. Dogs are sent into badger setts to hold an animal at bay. Humans then dig the badger out of the sett, and the dogs tear the poor creature apart. It is thought that more than 10,000 badgers are killed by baiting every year, while dogs often suffer severe injuries through being forced to fight. The baiters often treat the dogs’ injuries themselves, for fear of getting reported if they take their animals to a vet. A badger is extremely strong, and her claws can do serious damage when she’s fighting for her life, or for the lives of her cubs. It is this strength that makes badger baiting so appealing to those who get their kicks out of seeing animals fight.

Protect The Wild spoke to activists from South Norfolk Hunt Saboteurs. They said that:

“Badgers killed by baiters may be dumped on roads, made to look like roadkill. Or their bodies may simply be discarded into the undergrowth.”

They continued:

“The news about the Norfolk badger baiters is a reminder that there are humans keen to persecute and murder wildlife across both town and country. Norwich’s abundant green space should be a joy for those living in and visiting the city, an opportunity to be alongside the non-human world, but as with Norfolk’s countryside, it’s instead viewed by some as a space for satisfying their rotten lusts. Badger baiting is cruel to badgers, cruel to dogs, and ultimately damaging to the humans that carry it out.”


An illegal hobby with few consequences

Badgers are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, and badger baiting is illegal, yet this doesn’t stop the hunters. This is, in part, because they are often not caught. But even if they are caught, the consequences are minimal. Take Rhys Davies, for example. 28-year-old Davies was sentenced to prison for just eight months after he pleaded guilty to a number of animal cruelty offences. He admitted to training his five dogs to take part in fox and badger fighting in various locations. Davies was caught after he sent photos of his own depraved acts to a printing company to get developed. The company then alerted the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Like the Norwich youths who film themselves torturing badgers, Davies had clearly wanted to use the photos as trophies and to earn kudos for his horrific acts. Instead, they incriminated him.

Unbelievably, Davies’ eight-month sentence is at the higher end of punishment for those caught badger baiting. In 2019 four men were convicted of badger baiting after an undercover BBC reporter filmed them torturing badgers. Despite all the footage, as well as the public exposure, three of the men received sentences of between 22 and 26 weeks, while one walked away from prison.

The Badger Trust is campaigning for tougher sentencing to protect badgers. It says:

“Under the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021, those committing the most serious animal cruelty crimes to a domestic animal in England and Wales can face prosecution with up to 5 years in prison. ¬†Similar animal cruelty committed against a wild badger can only be given a maximum of a 6-month prison sentence under the Protection of Badgers Act.”

The Trust continues:

“Badgers deserve to be recognised as sentient beings in need of maximum welfare protection in line with domestic animals. 6 months is no deterrent. 5 years is what is needed.”


Tell your local wildlife monitors and hunt saboteurs

Of course, we’ll never know the true extent of badger baiting if incidents aren’t reported, and those torturing badgers will continue to get away with murder. South Norfolk Hunt Saboteurs urges the public to get in touch. The group said:

“If you have any information on these activities in Norwich, Norfolk, or further afield, then please let your local hunt saboteur, wildlife defence and animal welfare groups know.”

You can contact South Norfolk Hunt Saboteurs here, or donate to the group here.
You can contact Norfolk Wildlife Rescue here.


Featured image via Andy Ballard/Unsplash