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Norwich Bulletin - 11/1/2009

England's Bloodsports

As cruel as cockfighting and dog fighting are, I don’t think there is anything worse than what is known as badger baiting. The “sport” called baiting came to England in the 1700’s and unfortunately, became very popular. The badger is usually a quiet and docile creature who just wants to be able to live in his own domain. However, when cornered, or when danger is perceived, a badger possesses an abundance of courage. Badgers can weigh up to thirty-five pounds and they have extremely powerful claws, as well as a vicious bite, which they will use when threatened. They are more than capable of hurting a dog, and therefore, became a sought after commodity for the fighting pit.

Exactly what is baiting the badger? Articial dens were built and badgers captured and put into them and then the dog was set on the badger. The badger would be placed in a box, which was furnished in imitation of its den and from there a tunnel led upward. The owner of the badger would put him into this box. The timekeeper begins and the badger’s owner releases it to get ready for the dog and the fight. Whoever wants to pit his dog against the badger lets it slide into the tunnel. The dog is usually seized immediately by the badger and the dog of course bites the badger.

Each animal bites, tears and pulls the other with all of their strength. The owner of the dog pulls it out, separates the two and badger is returned to the den. Then the dog is put back into the tunnel and this goes on again and again and again. The more often the dog is able to seize the badger within a minute of time, so that both can be pulled out together, the better the game.

When eventually the badger can fight no longer, which can be up to an hour or more if it is a good game, the badger is simply killed either by repeated blows to the head with a shovel, or perhaps the more “humane” way of shooting it, and then it is simply thrown away, like garbage. And if you wonder what happens to the dog – many of them die of fatal wounds to the face because their owners are not rushing them to the vet anytime soon. Badger baiting has been illegal in England for over 170 years.

And then there are the spectators who have come for the show and to bet on who wins, how many times the badger can try to defend itself or how long it will take. Oh, did I mention that the badger is often disabled to give the dog the advantage. The owner might break the badger’s jaw before the game, or chain his legs. And then the sub-humans set their dogs upon this poor animal.

Towards the middle 1800’s badger baiting was replaced by dog fighting which England considered a much more “civilized” blood sport. In 1835 Badger Baiting was outlawed under the Cruelty to Animals Act. Today, the act of baiting animals is specifically forbidden by law, but the truth is, it continues on. The only difference is instead of being out in the public, the game is played in secret, in an out of the way location where there is little chance of being caught by the police.

After being illegal for such a long amount of time, badger baiting has continued throughout the British Isles. In February of 2009 (yes, this year), the Sunday Times reported on an internationally organized group of “hardcore terrier men” continuing to bait dog against badger in a clandestine manner. And the Irish Government pays little attention towards any animal cruelty. In the last twenty years there have been only ten convictions and it is estimated there are about 2,000 people who still participate in baiting.

It is difficult for people like us to understand how the baiters derive enjoyment from this so called sport, but obviously they do as they go through great lengths to continue. I am happy to say there are no active badger baiting clubs in the United Stated, and I hope that never changes.

So ends my columns on Bloodsports, although there are many other typed (Fox hunting and Bull fighting come to mind). With your eyes open, I hope you will all take some type of action to demand that the government protect our wild and domestic animals against any type of maltreatment by making the punishments not only more severe, but mandatory.

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