This took place last night and there's a lot going on which I'll try and summarise as best I can.
In no particular order:
There's been some really good progress at BT level in pressing the Home Office to make badger crime notifiable. At the moment, because the maximum sentence under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 (PBA) is only 6 months in prison, it doesn't meet the criteria for crimes that have to be reported to the Home Office. And that means there are no national statistics on badger crime.
Following the latest round of meetings, BT has been informed that the issue has been put forward for consideration at the next Sentencing Committees meeting. It may not sound like much but that's quite a breakthrough! Fingers crossed we can get the maximum PBA sentence aligned with the Animal Welfare Act maximum sentence of 5 years.
BT is lobbying Ministers and the Welsh Government currently on snaring and seeking a ban, which recently came into force in Scotland. Can't happen soon enough.
There's a joint venture underway between BT and the League Against Cruel Sports to highlight the frequency and effect of sett-blocking, particularly by "trail" hunts. Those pesky trails...
Similarly, there's a joint venture underway between BT and a number of other wildlife NGO's to campaign for a stronger Online Safety Bill and rid the internet of shared footage of badger baiting and other animal cruelty. It's beyond grotesque.
Tons of good work being done by a really small team at Badger Trust. We can all help by reporting wildlife crime wherever we suspect it and you can do that by using the new Badger Watch app. Stick the app on your phone and take a look, please!
"End The Cull" campaign
There's a programme of "End The Cull" initiatives being launched on 23rd March. The name change from "Can The Cull" is because many people are under the impression that the cull is being phased out by Government in 2024 whereas it's scheduled to continue in 2025 and beyond where the "epidemiology justifies culling". (Which is never!).
Central to this year's campaign, and ahead of the General Election that's likely to be held next year, is a comprehensive "End The Cull" report targeted for publication in September/October. It's a collation of authoritative and trusted evidence about the badger cull in England (the only country that culls the species) to illustrate its toxicity as a government policy.
We want all political parties to understand the cull is a toxic policy on all fronts - unscientific, ineffective, unsupported by most stakeholders and that 85% of people polled are against it. Currently, despite its 2019 manifesto saying it is "against the cull" the Labour party is refusing to commit to ending the cull and not planning to repeat the statement in its 2024 manifesto. We see this as a clear attempt to try and win more of the farming vote. We already know the Liberal Democrats last stated position on the cull is that they support it for the same reason.
There's an upcoming "call to action" for groups such as ours with a photoshoot campaign and an MP contact strategy which we'll definitely be supporting. I've pitched for our group to be part of the Badger Trust publicity campaign alongside some of the Badger Trust team so hopefully we can get fully involved and make a noise and an impact locally. As soon as I hear any more details on that I'll let everyone know. I'm following up on an offer of help putting together a press pack and engaging local press in this area.
New Working Groups
Badger Trust has already put together a Planning & Development Working Group to focus on the development of a "best of breed" Badger Ecology training course for local planners, ecologists and others, get closer to Natural England and seek to re-shape the existing planning regulations and mitigation rules when it comes to badgers and their setts. I'm part of that group and we're already making some good progress. Our work feeds into the "Space For Badgers" campaign and will continue to do so.
A new Rescue & Rehab Working Group is kicking off in the next 3 weeks as part of a focus on giving badger groups the training and resources they need to effect rescues, understand the law in terms of trepass, create a network of supportive vets, rescue/rehab facilities and acting as an advice centre for releases.
"State of the Badger" pilot study
I've mentione to some of you before that Badger Trust has secured funding for the first national survey of badgers for decades. The first instalment of funding for a pilot study has now been received from the John Spedan Lewis Foundation and recruitment is underway for a project manager to run the pilot. Several badger groups have pitched to be involved in the pilot, including us, although it's likely that only one will be selected. The pilot will involve individuals (training provided!) to walk predetermined transects and identify/record all badger related sightings and observations. I'd love us to be involved but we'll have to wait and see.
Assuming the pilot is successful the project will be rolled out as a citizen science initiative across the country in 2025.
There was more on the agenda but the above are the most interesting, key points to relay. I'll keep you posted as they develop. Have a look out on the Badger Trust website for news of the "End The Cull" campaign, new website content on badger ecology and general news.