Activists seek sharper bite

Ireland, 06/12/1998

Anti-bloodsport groups are calling for jail sentences for wildlife crimes following the conviction of a man for interfering with a badger sett.

Anti-bloodsport groups are calling for jail sentences for wildlife crimes following the conviction of a man for interfering with a badger sett.

  According to Badgerwatch and the Irish Council Against Bloodsports, those convicted under the 1976 Wildlife Act should face heavy fines or prison.

  The groups made the call after a £200 fine was imposed on a Dublin taxi driver who pleaded guilty to interfering with a badger sett located in north country Dublin.

  The taxi driver, Peter Byrne, 65, is well known to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and anti-bloodsports organisations.

  Byrne, with an address at 8 Avondale Park, Raheny, Dublin, pleaded guilty to the offence at Swords district court earlier this week, contrary to Section 23 of the 1976 Wildlife Act.

  He was also fined £40 in expenses and bound to the peace for a year on an independent surety of £500.

  He was caught along with two others – Stephen Tone (21) 20 Newgrove Estate, Donaghmede, Dublin, and John “Jack” Hanley, 53 Newgrove Estate – on January 29 last while digging into a badger sett located on farmland near Geleb, Kilsallaghan, Co. Dublin.

  Swords Garda Sgt. Pat Thornton told the court that the three men had been spotted digging into the sett by passers-by who alerted the gardai.

  Hanley’s vehicle had been seen in the vicinity days beforehand and locals were concerned about the safety of the sett.

  Byrne and his associates had tied two terrier-type dogs to a nearby fence, and a third dog had been entered into the badger sett with a radio transmitter attached to its collar.

  Tone was seen digging into the sett – one of the largest and oldest in the Dublin region – when interrupted. Both men claimed to be digging for foxes on behalf of the local hunt.

  Gardai arriving on the scene said he had stuffed plastic bags and sticks into his wellingtons.

  He was also fined £50 for the offence by Judge Hamill but is appealing the decision.

  Arrest warrants were issued for Hanley who failed to appear in court.

  Hanley – who was shot in the leg in 1993 by a gunman in Coolock – is thought to be somewhere in England.

  Badgerwatch spokeswoman Bernie Barrett said harsher fines should be imposed on people convicted under the Wildlife Act.

  “The legislation needs updating. The courts should be handing out heavier fines or preferably jail sentences to people who interfere with badger setts,” said Barrett who congratulated Swords gardai and the wildlife service on their handling of the case.

Blood lust

Badger baiting is a hard-core bloodsport which involves horrific cruelty, writes Crime Correspondent John Mooney.

The Irish Council Against Bloodsports describe badger baiting as a “hard-core and vile practices organised by thus who enjoy inflicting cruelty on dumb animals and dogs”.

  Badger baiting, along with dog fighting, fox baiting and cock fighting, are largely practised by individuals well known to the gardai.

  As badger baiting is illegal under the 1976 Wildlife Act, enthusiasts usually engage in the “sport” at dawn to avoid detection.

  When baiters arrive at a badger sett, they release teams of terriers into the entrance holes.

  The terriers – Patterdales are the preferred breed – are trained to corner a badger and pin it down.

  Some hardened badger baiters are known to attach radio transmitters to their dogs’ collars, and carry mobile receivers.

  On finding the terrified badger, one of the baiters removes the animal from the sett by grabbing its rump and throwing it above ground or by grasping it with a long metal badger tongs there are two ways of baiting badgers. The first is by allowing the dogs to fight the badger as it is being pulled from its sett or nearby.

  The second involves taking the badger to another location, where a pit has been prepared. Here, teams of terriers are sent into fight the badger and bets are placed on the outcome.

  The object of baiting is not to kill the badger at once but to see how long it takes the dogs to kill it. The practice involves huge pain for the animals and most sustain horrific wounds. It is not uncommon to see injured or dead dogs dumped on country roadsides after a session.

  Baiters actively seek out lactating females as they will fight more fiercely to defend their cubs. Cub badgers are also taken from setts to blood young dogs and pups.

  The practice is rife in many parts of Ireland, with particularly bad blackspots in Wicklow, Cavan, Dublin, Galway, Cork and Laois.