First conviction in Scotland for badger-baiting

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2007:
EDINBURGH–Craig Morrison, 22, on
October 9, 2007 became the first person to be
convicted of badger baiting in Scotland under the
Protection of Badgers and Protection of Wild
Mammals acts, passed in 2004 and 2002.
Charged with nine offenses on March 29,
2007, Morrison pleaded guilty to three of them
in the Kilmamock Sheriff Court. Sheriff Seith
Ireland deferred sentencing, pending receipt of
witness statements that he said “could make the
difference between a custodial sentence or
community service.”
“Prosecutors requested Morrison’s dogs be
taken from him permanently and an order be made
to ban Morrison from keeping animals. They also
asked the court for Morrison to be liable for the
£3,000 costs of housing the dogs since they were
seized from him in March,” wrote Robert McAulay
of The Scotsman.


Doreen Graham of the Scottish SPCA and
Ian Hutchison of Scottish Badgers praised the
outcome, which came just under a month after
four men were fined for reckless behavior and
illegally blocking badger setts, but escaped
convictions for cruelty and badger baiting.
Scott Collins, 19, and Greg Withers, 21, were
fined £640; Derek Kelly, 22, and Adam Lennon,
21, were fined £520.
“The Crown accepted the men’s story that
they had been rabbit-hunting,” reported Craig
Davidson of The Scotsman, “when a terrier
belonging to Withers bolted and followed a rabbit
into a badger sett. The dog was found to have a
number of brutal injuries consistent with a fight
with a badger. All four men–three of whom had
trained as gamekeepers– insisted they had only
been trying to retrieve the lost dog.”
Observed Lothian & Borders Police
wildlife crime coordinator Jim McGovern, “In an
area thought to be infested with rabbits, they
didn’t manage to catch one in four to five hours.
Either they weren’t very good at what they are
doing or something else was going on that day.”
Between the two Scottish cases, a test
of the British anti-badger baiting law ended with
the October 3 conviction of Mark Paddock, 37, of
Aintree Close, Leegomery, Telford. Paddock also
said he was hunting rabbits, but was found
guilty of “lamping” a badger on December 14,
2005, based largely on images and sounds he had
recorded on his mobile telephone.
At least six other alleged British badger
baiters, arrested in January 2007, are still
awaiting trial.
British badger protection acts were
adopted in 1973, 1991, and 1992, but as in
Scotland, enforcement has proved difficult due
to the lack of witnesses in most suspected cases.
The badger-baiting prosecutions came amid
continued debate as to whether culling badgers is
an effective tactic in controlling bovine
tuberculosis. The disease primarily afflicts
cattle, but badgers are capable of catching it
from them, incubating it, and then passing it
back into pastures which have long been cleared
of infected cows. The number of cases in Britain
has increased from several hundred per year when
badger protections were introduced, to nearly
20,000 in 2006.
“In the expectation of an imminent end to
the moratorium on licences to kill badgers,
farmers have earmarked areas of the country where
the cull could begin, while the Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is
conducting four secret trials to find which is
the most effective ways of killing
badgers–snaring, trapping, shooting, or
gassing,” reported Jasper Copping of the Sunday
Telegraph in May 2007. But the farmers’
anticipation was premature.
Within days, Badgerwatch Ireland and the
United Kingdom Badger Trust released findings
that despite intensive badger killing in the
Republic of Ireland between 1997 and 2002, in
Cork, Monaghan, Donegal and Kilkenny counties,
Ireland still has twice as high a rate of bovine
TB as Britain. Ireland has only 10% as many
badgers as Britain in equivalent habitat, but
killed 9% more cattle due to bovine TB outbreaks
in 2006, reported Trevor Lawson of the Badger
Trust.

“May make matters worse”

A month later, the Independent
Scientific Group on Cattle TB, headed by Bristol
University professor of animal health John
Bourne, recommended that culling badgers “may
make matters worse,” and recommended that
farmers should do more to avoid moving infected
livestock.
“The report of a nine-year trial
concluded that although badgers contribute
significantly to spreading TB in cattle herds,
killing the animals on a large scale would tend
to increase the incidence of the disease,”
summarized Independent environment editor Michael
McCarthy. “That is because individual badgers
missed in a cull tend to wander about the
countryside after their social group has been
broken up, spreading the TB bacterium as they go.”
“Given its high costs and low benefits,”
said Bourne, “we conclude that badger culling is
unlikely to contribute usefully to the control of
cattle TB in Britain. It is unfortunate,”
Bourne added, “that agricultural and veterinary
leaders continue to believe, in spite of
overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary,
that the main approach to cattle TB control must
involve some form of badger population control.”
National Farmers Union president Peter
Kendall rejected the Independent Scientific Group
findings. “I simply do not accept that the
industry cannot devise a culling strategy that
will reduce the reservoir of TB in badgers,”
Kendall said.
David King, chief science adviser to the
present British government, on October 22
recommended culling badgers in specific areas
that are isolated from reoccupation by barriers
such as roads or bodies of water.
Bourne called King’s recommendation
inconsistent with the scientific evidence, but
“consistent with the political need to do
something about” bovine TB.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *