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Celebrating National Badger Day during a tough time for badgers

To mark Badger Day 2021 Adam Laidlaw, Executive Director of Badger Trust, writes on the challenges facing this iconic British mammal.

October 2021

National Badger Day falls today- the 6th October. It may be one day, yet Badger Trust – the leading voice for badgers in England and Wales – joins Scottish Badgers in designating the whole month ‘Brocktober’, a time to come together to celebrate the beauty and wonder of badgers, an iconic and popular native British species.

The earliest traces of badgers date back hundreds of thousands of years, to a time when wolves, brown bears and lynx once roamed Britain. As a living symbol of the British countryside, these secretive and mysterious mustelids continue to bring joy to those lucky enough to encounter them in the wild.

And badgers play an integral and very important part in the UK's ecosystems. Their role as ecosystem engineers contributes to habitat heterogeneity, maintaining and regenerating soil health through foraging and sett building, and helping to disperse seeds through their dung. They create new habitats for amphibians, invertebrates and pollinators and their setts provide refuge for other wildlife too.

However, sadly, we are all too aware that this time of celebration falls during a tough time for badgers – the intensive badger cull. The seemingly endless badger slaughter continues in England, with over 140,000 badgers killed since the current badger cull began in 2013. And in 2021 alone, a shocking 75,930 badgers – the most ever – are slated to be shot from Cornwall to Cumbria under misguided and fundamentally flawed attempts to control bovine Tuberculosis (bTB), an infectious respiratory disease which affects cattle.

Bovine TB is always present in the environment and can affect or be carried harmlessly by many species – livestock and wildlife alike. Yet the government has focused on badgers, even though 94% of cattle infections are from cow to cow. Unlike cattle, badgers are not routinely tested for bTB before being culled. However, from 900 badgers that have been tested post mortem, less than 5% were found to have bovine TB to a degree where they posed a risk of infecting other badgers, or possibly cattle. That means their mass removal will have no impact on lowering bTB in cattle.We also believe the ongoing badger cull negatively impacts on the understanding and reputation of the badger, falsely fostering a belief that it's ‘fair game’ to persecute badgers as the government does it on a mass scale.

Badgers have a long history of cruelty and persecution in the UK spanning hundreds of years. To this day badgers remain one of the most persecuted of all species despite having one of the highest levels of protection in law. From blood sports to development concerns, thousands of badgers become the victims of wildlife crimes each year. Badger Trust exists to counter the historic, and unfortunately ongoing, persecution of badgers, and the need for our work shows no sign of abating any time soon.

Badger crime is prolific in all areas of the country with crimes from badger baiting to sett blocking remaining prevalent long after the Protection of Badgers Act was established. We receive hundreds of reports every year of wildlife crimes that involve badgers. Badger Trust works closely with the police and other enforcement agencies to combat wildlife crime, and with Wildlife and Countryside Link and related partner organisations. We also widely promote public awareness and crime reporting through our ‘Stop Badger Crime’ campaign.

But we can’t let the Government’s senseless badger cull or the many crimes badgers face deter us from celebrating and championing this amazing native species.

National Badger Day and the month ahead give us all an opportunity to celebrate these iconic wild animals that have been in the UK since the Ice Age. We encourage our badger supporters, followers and all friends of wildlife to join the celebrations, to share why we should care for and conserve badgers and their habitats, and to make our brock friends proud on National Badger Day and beyond. It's a time to hope for a better future for badgers, one that our charity will continue to campaign for.

Adam Laidlaw is Executive Director of the Badger Trust

Follow @AJSLaidlaw & @BadgerTrust

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.

Further information

National Badger Day 2021:
Celebrate badgers! Read more about National Badger Day, watch new short films about badgers for all ages and see special messages from a whole clan of brilliant badger friends here.

Stop Badger Crime:
The Badger Trust has a dedicated team that monitors, responds, and tracks badger related wildlife crime across England and Wales. By reporting badger crime the information you provide could help investigators bring offenders to justice. Your reports support vital campaigning work calling for changes to the law to improve the lives of thousands of animals.
To report a crime or suspicious incident in progress
• Call 999 and ask for police assistance
• Ensure you get a reference number
• Report to the Badger Trust online
For a crime or suspicious incident that's already happened, please call 101 instead then report to the Badger Trust online.
Please stay vigilant when you’re out in the countryside and ALWAYS keep yourself safe if you suspect a crime or suspicious incident

The Badger Cull:
Read more about the badger cull and find out how you can take action for badgers in 2021 with the Badger Trust's free cull action pack.