Badger ‘gassing’ radio claim sparks row

Conservationists have called for a criminal investigation after a farmer claimed badgers were illegally gassed with exhaust fumes from an old petrol engine.

The Badger Trust demanded the investigation after BBC Radio 4 broadcast an interview with a unnamed farmer who showed radio presenter Nick Ravenscroft one of “dozens of setts” where he said badgers had been killed.

The farmer denied taking part in the gassing but admitted being present when it was done. Law-abiding farmers were “fed up with the government not doing anything” about bovine TB, he told The Report, broadcast on 4 August.

“You have an old petrol engine, you put a pipe down the hole here, you have the engine running, and once the holes are completely blocked up you run the engine and that puts the badger to sleep underground. But it’s a sick sett. The whole family group is put to sleep humanely”.

Mr Ravenscroft said: “There are plenty of people who would say that what was happening that night – which you were watching and friends of yours were doing – is not only illegal but it’s wrong and inhumane”.

The farmer replied: “I don’t think it’s inhumane at all. Is it actually inhumane to actually sit and watch an animal suffer? Answer that question for me. We don’t let livestock on our farms suffer a slow death. Why should that badger suffer a slow death over three or four years?”

Badger Trust chairman David Williams said the interview showed the depth of ignorance about basic facts in respect of badgers and their setts and revealed the brutality behind the demands of the livestock industry.

“Badgers are very tough and do not die easily; they would make every effort to dig their way out to escape choking fumes. The farmers mentioned on the programme are anything but ‘law abiding citizens’ and must be prosecuted”.

The trust is also challenging the BBC over the programme’s assertion that the badger population has “surged to an estimated 300,000” since the 1970s. Mr Williams said: “There has been no quantified estimate of population for 14 years.”

But the trust’s own Eurasian Badger Factsheet’ states that badger numbers have increased to “a total estimated population of around 300,000” – a statistic highlighted by Brian Walters, president of the Farmers’ Union of Wales.

“They can not grasp basic facts and figures even when published by themselves,” said Mr Walters. “It confirms our suspicion that they are failing to tell black from white when it comes to all issues relating to badgers and bovine TB.”