National Recognition for Badger-Baiting Prevention Initiative

Led by the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) and the Northern Ireland Badger Group (NIBG), the initiative called ‘Operation Brockwatch’ is an effective rural partnership working with landowners and the PSNI to protect the vulnerable settlements previously targeted by criminal gangs.

This award is a special recognition of the initiative’s progress since its inception in 2019, when a number of vulnerable sites were identified and monitored by cameras.

To date, Operation Brockwatch has proven to be 100% successful, with none of the badgers under watch falling victim to additional attacks from vicious badger bait. Now in its third year, the joint initiative has expanded to cover 16 badger sets in total, and established a network of volunteers to drive the project forward.

Pictured left are representatives of the Northern Ireland Badger Group, along with USPCA Board Member John Wilson and USPCA Development Manager Colleen Tinnelly.

Commenting on the award, USPCA Executive Director Brendan Mullan said, “We are very pleased that Operation Brockwatch has been recognized nationally as an effective crime prevention strategy.

“These awards recognize and speak volumes about the commitment of organizations and individuals across the UK who strive to protect wildlife which is relentlessly targeted by cruel individuals.

“Operation Brockwatch has gone from strength to strength and is led by a dedicated team within the USPCA and NIBG, as well as a fantastic network of volunteers.

“Badger baiting is a cruel and unforgiving ‘blood sport’ and we are appalled that it continues to take place here in Northern Ireland. Often individuals enter rural land where there are active setts and send small terrier-type dogs with trackers in the holes to locate badgers.

“Once located, the bait burrows, exposing the badgers who are then dragged above ground and attacked by a larger group of vicious dogs. We are pleased that 24/7 monitoring has proven to be an excellent deterrent to those who engage in this cruel activity.

“The suspicious behavior of a few selected individuals was caught on our cameras. Although no crime took place, these images were provided to the PSNI to help identify anyone who may have a history relating to the baiting badgers or other acts of animal cruelty.

Peter Clarke, NIBG spokesperson, added: “This award highlights the importance of Operation Brockwatch in successfully deterring badger bait. This form of badger persecution is premeditated cruelty at its worst and causes unimaginable suffering. However, it is simply considered an enjoyable weekend pastime by these cruel individuals.

“It is unbearable that this beautiful protected species is targeted mercilessly for the pleasure of others. Many dogs forced into this activity also suffer terrible injuries, as badgers will bravely fight for their lives. Often dogs’ wounds are crudely stitched together without any veterinary expertise – sometimes dogs that “fail” at the task at hand are themselves put down mercilessly and sometimes left to die in the badgers.

Members of the public who witness unrest in progress should immediately call 999 to report the crime, giving the PSNI the opportunity to apprehend the perpetrators.

If the motives of foreigners seen in the locality seem suspicious, the non-emergency line PSNI 101 will help you. You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on tel. 0800 555 111.

– Do not approach the persons concerned, do not draw attention to yourself, do not put yourself in danger.

– If possible, note the numbers concerned and their precise locality.

– Note if dogs are used.

– Record the registration number, color, make and model of vehicles.

Brendan continued: ‘Operation Brockwatch is greatly bolstered by the public recognizing their duty to protect our native wildlife – through their support and reporting suspicious activity, we can help quell this malicious crime and ensure that the wrongdoers be apprehended.

“Northern Ireland has strict animal welfare legislation in place – maximum custodial sentences of five years, lifetime bans on keeping animals and fines of up to £20,000 – it is imperative that these people be arrested and that adequate sentences be handed down by the courts. Together we can send a clear message that there is no place for badgers in Northern Ireland,” he concluded.

About Keneth T. Graves

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