Badger in woodland

Two brothers were jailed after using a spade to ‘bludgeon’ a badger

A magistrate has handed two brothers jail terms for badger baiting. Both denied their criminal activities even as they were convicted. But details of the incident revealed a scene of abject horror.

The trial, brought by the RSPCA, was originally held on 16 November. Evidence presented that day revealed that brothers Dale and Michael Rickerby had sent the former’s bull terrier named Bronson into a badger sett. A tracking collar enabled the pair to follow Bronson’s location. When the terrier had found a badger, the Rickerbys then dug out the sett. And once the badger emerged from the hole, the court heard that Dale “bludgeoned [them] over the head” with a spade. The dead badger was thrown to other dogs.

Meanwhile, RSPCA special operations unit inspector Iain Muttitt said that Bronson:

was significantly injured; basically, the skin from the bottom of its jaw was ripped off.

But police spotted the two males in the car quickly and luckily the dog was taken to the vets straight away and treated. It’s made a full recovery.

On 16 November, the judge found Dale guilty of “wilfully killing a badger”. He also convicted Dale on two other charges related to Bronson; one of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal, and the other of failing to ensure his welfare. As a result, at the 15 December sentencing hearing, the judge gave Dale a 20-week custodial sentence. He is also banned from owning or looking after animals for five years.

Meanwhile, the judge gave Michael a 12-week suspended sentence for aiding and encouraging Dale. He must also complete 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £1000 in costs. Michael was also banned from owning or caring for dogs for five years.

Secret camera footage showing four men with spades digging a hole.
Badger baiters digging out a sett in the BBC Wales documentary “The Secret World of Badger Baiters”.

Not accepting guilt

The attack happened on 15 October 2021 in Aglionby, just three miles from the centre of Carlisle. Dale and Michael claimed they were hunting rabbits when the badger attacked Bronson. They killed the badger in order to prevent further injury to the dog, they said. But trial evidence including eyewitness testimony revealed the pair had dug the sett out before attacking the badger.

Nonetheless, Dale wouldn’t admit his crime even after their conviction. Sentencing was adjourned from the 16 November trial after the judge ordered pre-sentencing reports. While the brothers’ defence lawyer claimed that neither had a record of similar past offences, the News and Star said the:

background Probation Service report showed clearly that Dale Rickerby did not accept the court’s guilty verdict.

Baiters, hunters and shooters

Badger baiting was outlawed in 1835 by the Cruelty to Animals Act, but remains commonplace across the UK. The activity sees groups of humans sending terriers or other aggressive dogs into setts to confront badgers. The dog will then either hold the badger in place for the group to dig out and kill itself, or the dog themselves will fight the badger. This not only causes massive trauma and likely death to the badger but, as seen in Bronson, to the dog as well.

Protect the Wild recently reported on how baiters may stream or share video of their actions to the internet. Not only are they getting off on the cruelty themselves, they are enabling others to vicariously live out their sick fantasies too.

While badger baiting has its own dedicated groups, there is sometimes close ties to local hunting and shooting communities. A court convicted Rhys Davies, gamekeeper at a major Scottish shooting estate, to eight months in prison for badger baiting offences earlier this year. David Thomas, huntsman for Dwyryd Hunt in north Wales, was jailed for 22 weeks in 2018 after the RSPCA filmed him badger baiting. And disgraced former Tory PCC Jonathon Seed narrowly escaped a conviction in 2013 after he was caught involved in a sett dig out as master of the Avon Vale Hunt.

Learn more about how we can work together to end badger persecution.