Are badgers protected?
Yes, and so are the holes - or setts - that they live in. Under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, in England and Wales (the law has been amended in Scotland) it is against the law to:
- Wilfully kill, injure or take a badger.
- Cruelly mistreat a badger.
- Dig for a badger.
- Intentionally or recklessly damage or destroy a badger sett – or obstruct access to it.
- Cause a dog to enter a badger sett.
- Disturb a badger when it is occupying a sett.
But the protection is not absolute - there are exceptions. Licences to undertake some actions can be issued if it is justified. Take a case where a badger sett is found on a proposed site for a road or housing development. Just bulldozing the sett would risk killing or injuring the badgers and be illegal so the authorities (see below) may license action allowing the badgers to be carefully excluded from the sett, making them move elsewhere in their territory.
Our FAQs and factsheet - Living with badgers (PDF 203KB) - provide more information and detailed advice is available in Natural England's advisory leaflets.
Natural England provides a 'one-stop shop' for licensing in England.
The Welsh Assembly Government and the Countryside Council for Wales cover licensing in Wales.
What are we doing?
Badgers were given some limited protection in 1973 but we successfully campaigned for better protection because weaknesses in the law meant that badger setts were still being dug, bulldozed, blocked or the animals cruelly killed.
We help enforce the law by assisting with police investigations or prosecuting people involved in wildlife crime such as badger digging and baiting.
Undercover RSPCA inspectors have helped bring a number of successful badger digging cases before the courts. Some of these have involved the use of advanced forensic techniques including DNA evidence.
What can you do?
If you’re concerned that someone is breaking the law please call our 24hr cruelty and advice line on 0300 1234 999 - or contact the police.