Badger-hunt holidays are arranged for UK groups

Irish Times, 26/09/1995

Men are travelling to Ireland from Britain for organised badger-baiting holidays. One of them, a prominent terrier breeder, has been organising trial badger baits for Irish enthusiasts.

  Two men, one in Co Meath and the other in west Wicklow, have been letting houses for the past three years to British enthusiasts.

  Badger-baiting is a blood sport and is illegal under the 1976 Wildlife Act. It involves putting trained terriers into badger homes, or setts, where they hold at bay any animal they find. The dog handlers then dig towards the sound of the barking, until they trap the cornered animal.

  At this point more dogs are either released onto the badger to kill it or it is placed in a bag and taken to a “bait”. This is an organised fight between a badger and dogs. Bets are normally placed on the result.

  British police sources say that one man who travels to Ireland has a criminal record for illegal possession of firearms, armed robbery and assault.

  One known and respected British terrier breeder has been involved, and has been featured in British fieldsports publications. He organises trials for badger-baiting enthusiasts interested in purchasing his dogs.

  At these trials, dogs which are offered for sale are pitted against badgers and are purchased on the strength of their killing abilities.

  One man who acts as an agent for the British terrier breeder told The Irish Times that many Irish “diggers” – a slang term for badger-baiting followers – have purchased dogs from him.

  While in Ireland last year on a badger-baiting trip, the British breeder also judged a dog show for a hunting fair. Another man who judged at this show is directly involved in organising badger-digging holidays.

  Mr John Bryant, wildlife officer of the British League Against Cruel Sports, said that the identities of the individuals who travel to Ireland for badger-baiting are known.

  A spokesman for the Irish Council Against Bloodsports, Mr John Tierney, said that it was not surprising that some involved in badger baiting had connections with legal bloodsports. He said that in Britain legal fieldsports enthusiasts had been prosecuted for illegal bloodsports.

  Mr James Norton of the Irish Masters of Foxhounds Association said that his organisation did not condone badger-baiting.

  “I can confirm that every effort is made by our members not to disturb badger setts or earths where badgers are known to be in residence. The Irish Masters of FoxhoundsAssociation is concerned about allegations which attempt to link prohibited activities with traditional fieldsports.”

The Badgerwatch spokeswoman, Ms Angel Tinney, said: “Until such a time as Ireland gets Garda wildlife officers to investigate wildlife crime, Ireland will always be seen internationally as a haven for bloodsports.”

  A spokesman for the Garda Press Office said that any incident of badger baiting reported to the gardai was investigated fully. He appealed to members of the public with information to contact their local Garda station.

Wild birds caught by illegal trapping for trading as pets

Song-birds in good condition can command prices of up to £25 each

Irish Times, 02/08/1995

Wild song-birds, including goldfinches and bulfinches, are being illegally trapped in Wicklow and west Dublin for sale to avian enthusiasts and song-bird breeders. The Irish Times had learned that a number of individuals based in Tallaght and east Wicklow have already started to trap goldfic6hes for the pet trade.

  Trapping song-birds is illegal under the 1976 Wildlife Act. August traditionally signals the start of the illegal trapping season. Goldfinches are the most sought-after species for trapping, as birds in good condition can command prices of up to £25 each on the black market.

  Song-birds are trapped in two ways. The first, bird liming, involves placing a coat of bird lime, a glue-like substance on branches near a caged bird. The “caller”, as the caged bird is called, acts as a decoy to attract birds of similar species. When a wild bird lands on a branch coated in bird lime, it immediately gets stuck and is then captured by the trapper.

  The other method involves the use of specially designed trap cages. These are cages which have a holding compartment for a “caller” bird and a number of smaller spring-loaded trap cages. Trap cages are c6tivated when a bird lands on the “caller” bird’s cage. This traps the wild bird in a small compartment located on the top of the cage trap.

  A significant portion of wild song-birds die during capture and transportation from stress and handling. The life expectancy is very short as wild birds are not suited to captive lifestyles.

  Following capture, song-birds are laundered into the legal pet trade by placing closed bird rings on them. All native bird species sold in pet shops and at bird markets must have a closed bird ring on them. These are placed on captive-bred birds while still in the nest. As nestlings grow the ring becomes too small to remove over the foot. This ensures that all birds which have closed rings on their legs are captive bred.

  However, it has been learned that a small number of trappers are circumventing the Wildlife Act by putting closed-rings on wild caught birds.

  One trapper in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, told The Irish Times that by placing a closed metal bird ring on a hot nail, the ring could be enlarged and forced over a bird’s foot and on to its leg. When the ring cools it returns to its former size.

  Trapped birds are sold to pet shops and at bird markets. A small number are “legally” exported to Britain.

  Mr John Coveney, spokesman for the Irish WIldbird Conservancy, said the trapping of song-birds was not a major conservation problem. However, it had caused problems to species populations in local areas.

  The spokesman also called on the Government to introduce legislation to protect song-bird bird habitats and introduce more significant fines for those caught trapping wild birds.