The main legislation protecting badgers is the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. This Act consolidates all previous legislation including the Badgers Act 1973 (as amended) and the Badgers (Further Protection) Act 1991. Under the 1992 Act it is an offence to:
- wilfully kill, injure, take or attempt to kill, injure or take a badger;
- possess a dead badger or any part of a badger;
- cruelly ill-treat a badger;
- use badger tongs in the course of killing, taking or attempting to kill a badger;
- dig for a badger;
- sell or offer for sale or control any live badger;
- mark, tag or ring a badger;
- interfere with a badger sett by:
- damaging a sett or any part thereof;
- destroying a sett;
- obstructing access to a sett;
- causing a dog to enter a sett;
- disturbing a badger while occupying a sett.
The 1992 Act defines a badger sett as: “any structure or place which displays signs indicating current use by a badger”.
1992 Act: powers of sentence
(i) up to six months’ imprisonment or a fine at level 5 or both. The fine may be multiplied by the number of badgers;
(ii) forfeiture of any badger or skin relating to the offence or any weapon or article used;
(iii) order destruction or disposal of dogs;
(iv) disqualification for having custody of a dog.
Badgers are also listed on Schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and s11 prohibits the use of certain methods of taking or killing a wild animal, including illuminating devices and some snares.
Other legislation relevant to badgers (and to dogs which may be used in badger offences) includes the Protection of Animals Act 1911 and the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960. Offences include causing unnecessary suffering, or abandoning in circumstances likely to result in such suffering, and fighting or baiting animals. The sentence under this Act is a fine at level 5 or imprisonment up to six months; confiscation or destruction of dogs and a ban on keeping animals. The Powers of Criminal Courts Act 1973 (s.43) allows the forfeiture of property used, or intended to be used, to commit or facilitate the commission of any offence, including dogs.
There are powers of arrest only for cruelty to, or abandonment of, domestic or captive animals under the 1911 Animals Act, or if the general arrest conditions apply (s.25 of PACE, 1984).
Licensing: development and protection of property
The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 allows for licences to be issued for a number of purposes, including development under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and to prevent serious damage to property. Licences to interfere with badger setts or disturb badgers for development, are issued by the Government’s statutory nature conservation agencies (English Nature, Countryside Council for Wales or Scottish Natural Heritage).
Licences to prevent serious damage to property (including land, crops and poultry) are issued by the relevant Government Agriculture Department (DEFRA in England, NAWAD in Wales and SERAD in Scotland). Damage licences can allow the interference with, and/or closure of setts. In some cases, licences are issued to allow the killing of badgers, although this is generally a last resort and only a handful of such licences are issued each year.
Licences may be granted by the conservation agencies for interference with badger setts in the course of investigating offences. Such licences are normally issued to Police Wildlife Liaison Officers and to others officially involved in this work.
Other purposes for which licences may be granted are science, education and conservation; zoos; tagging and marking; archaeology; disease prevention; agriculture and forestry; land drainage; and controlling foxes for the protection of livestock, game and wildlife.
Exceptions: fox hunting
The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 was amended by the Hunting Act so that there are no exemptions for hunting. Therefore it is no longer legal for a fox hunts to obstruct the entrances of badger setts to prevent foxes seeking refuge, or interfere with a sett in any way.