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Illegal badger baiters exposed by undercover TV reporters’ secret filming

For the first time in over 30 years, investigators have infiltrated and exposed vicious gangs of badger baiters in the UK.

An undercover team from ‘BBC Wales Investigates’ gained access to two illegal hunting groups and filmed their cruel activities over a six-month period.

One of the team, a former special operations soldier who felt prepared to witness violence, was still shocked by what he saw. He said: “To these people, killing animals is a sport – the more brutal, the better … it was far, far worse than what I expected to see.”

The two gangs’ barbaric behaviour included:

  • Lamping – a method of hunting nocturnal animals with high-powered spotlights and torches to reveal their eyeshine
  • Encouraging large dogs to attack wild animals such as deer, boar and badgers
  • Jumping on, then stabbing, the weakened animals to inflict more pain
  • Becoming “frenzied” with excitement during an animal’s death
  • Digging setts for up to eight hours, desperate to find a badger to persecute. Interfering with a sett is prohibited under The Protection of Badgers Act 1992
  • Setting dogs on a badger cub before killing it with a spade – baiters are usually disappointed by finding cubs as they don’t put up as much of a fight as an adult
  • Breeding dogs with the specific intention of involving them in baiting – puppies of prized hunting dogs can sell for up to a few hundred pounds each
  • Kicking, dragging and general abusing their own dogs – the reporter witnessed dogs cowering in fear, afraid of their owners
  • Mocking each other if a gang member’s dog isn’t aggressive or tough enough
  • Photographing their dogs’ injuries to prove their future breeding value – the more injuries, the better
  • Shooting dogs that aren’t good enough – failures include allowing wild animals to get away
  • Neglecting to seek veterinary help for dogs’ injuries in case they are reported
  • Performing makeshift medical treatment on their dogs, even for severe injuries such as a jaw that has been ripped away
  • Filming kills on their phones and replaying it later
  • Boasting about their cruel activities on social media

Filming took place in Pembrokeshire and the Forest of Dean. The undercover reporter was told that gangs from distant locations such as Newcastle make the long journey to hunt in the Forest.

RSPCA special operations unit head, Ian Briggs, told the BBC that there is a particular issue with badger baiting in Wales due to its remoteness, which facilitates the criminals’ activities. 

However, badger persecution is taking place all over the UK. It often goes unnoticed, unreported – and unpunished. With your support, Naturewatch Foundation is determined to change this.

Our current campaign against illegal badger persecution has already highlighted that the true scale of crimes like these is unknown due to ineffective recording. According to the Ministry of Justice, only 13 people in England and Wales were actually convicted in 2016. 

Thanks to a report recently published by Wildlife and Countryside Link, of which Naturewatch Foundation is a member, the Government has been presented with a compelling case proving the need to effectively record and monitor wildlife crime in England and Wales.

Perpetrators are more likely to be brought to justice when they are reported by family, friends and acquaintances who suspect that they might be involved.

You can help us do that by telling our Wildlife Crime Adviser information about people you think are involved in badger crime.

Regarding the two gangs featured in the undercover filming, BBC One Wales will pass their evidence on to RSPCA Cymru for further investigation.

More information:

Watch BBC Wales Investigates (WARNING: the content may be upsetting)

Take action against this brutal and illegal blood 'sport'

Facts about badger baiting