Badger Trust has backed proposals to increase sentences for crimes against the elusive native mammals and their setts from the current maximum six months to five years.

Defra has proposed sentencing be brought into line with the Animal Welfare Act 2021.

Under this act, people committing the most severe animal cruelty crimes to a domestic animal in England and Wales can face prosecution with up to five years in prison. 

Similar animal cruelty committed against a wild badger can only lead to a maximum of a six-month prison sentence under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

The proposals are part of Defra's Nature Recovery Green Paper which is out for consultation until May 11.

READ ALSO: Greens gain three seats in Oxford City Council elections

Executive director of Badger Trust Peter Hambly said: "Badgers are persecuted possibly by a wider cross-section of society than any other species. They are abused and tormented in an array of crimes, from sett interference, badger baiting, shooting, snaring and trapping, to poisoning, hunting and lamping

"We need higher sentencing to act as a deterrent. Higher sentencing would also lead to these crimes against badgers being recordable by the police and more police resources allocated, which would also deter this criminal activity.

"So many people are appalled by the awful recent cases of gangs attacking and baiting badgers. This has to stop.”

Badger Trust is also asking for police to have powers to enter land where crimes against badgers have taken place, also in line with the Animal Welfare Act.

The trust's PBA30 campaign, marking the 30th anniversary of the Protection of Badgers Act passing into law, aims to raise awareness of these crimes and stop the persecution of the native mammal, often by violent gangs.

Mr Hambly added: ‘The Protection of Badgers Act received Royal Assent 30 years ago when a six-month prison sentence for badger cruelty was a landmark win for badgers. 

Witney Gazette:

"Thirty years later, our PBA30 campaign aims to get sentencing in line with broader animal welfare policy and law changes.  Those who commit these crimes against badgers need to get the sentences they deserve."

Badger Trust said the move could also help prevent other serious criminal activity often unrelated to wildlife crime.

He added: "We know that criminal activity such as badger baiting is routinely connected to other very serious crimes, including violent crimes against people, gun crime, and organised crime related to illegal gambling. 

READ ALSO: Join the ramblers for free walks across Oxfordshire

"In apprehending gangs engaged in hare coursing, police forces also apprehend gangs involved in county lines operations.

"In the same way, they recognise that being able to apprehend criminals involved in crimes against badgers, they may also apprehend criminals wanted for other very serious offences."