DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill Applaud’s USPCA’s efforts in combating Badger Baiting

The Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle O’Neill was recently asked to reply to the following question.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, given that there are a considerable number of gangs engaged in badger baiting, to detail (i) how many incidents her Department is aware of in each Council area in each of the last five years; and (ii) what action is being taken by her Department, in co-operation with the Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the PSNI, to bring those involved to justice.

My Department does not hold data in relation to incidents of badger baiting. The Department of the Environment is responsible for the Wildlife Order 1985 and the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act 2011 in relation to the killing, injuring, disturbing, taking or selling of a badger.

The PSNI undertakes any wildlife crime investigations. Animal fighting, including badger baiting, is an offence under Section 8 of the Welfare of Animals Act 2011. The PSNI has enforcement responsibility for Section 8 in relation to animal fighting which is defined as an occasion on which a protected animal is placed with an animal or with a human for the purpose of fighting, wrestling or baiting. This means that an animal fight can be deemed to have taken place, even if both animals are wild animals, as protected animal includes any animal under the control of man, whether on a permanent or temporary basis. The 2011 Act has robust provisions to deal with animal fighting.
In May last year, I met the Badger Group and the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) to discuss a number of issues surrounding the protection of badgers, resulting from media coverage at that time. The meeting was very positive with both organisations commending the tough fines and penalties contained within the Welfare of Animals Act 2011 for dealing with cruelty to badgers. Following this meeting I wrote to, and subsequently met, the Chief Constable to discuss a range of issues regarding rural and wildlife crime, including incidents involving badgers. One of the actions coming out of this meeting was to publicise a contact point for reporting wildlife crimes under the relevant wildlife legislation. This was in response to a request from the Badger Group and the USPCA to have a central contact point to enable the public and others to report wildlife crime concerns.
I also wrote to the Environment Minister, on the matter.
I totally deplore the horrific and sickening images that I have seen in news reports regarding badger baiting and I applaud the efforts of the USPCA and the PSNI in trying to bring to justice those responsible. I would urge the public to play their part in reporting wildlife crime to the PSNI so that prompt action can be taken against alleged perpetrators.