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Volume 404: debated on Thursday 8 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the legal protection for badgers. [110326]

I have been asked to reply.Badgers are protected by the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, which makes it illegal to kill, injure or take badgers or to interfere with a badger sett. Interference with a sett includes blocking tunnels or damaging the sett in any way. Badgers are further protected from certain cruel acts by the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996.A detailed assessment of the status of the badger population was carried out by scientists at Bristol university and was published in 1997. This compared national surveys of badgers carried out before and after the introduction of the Protection of Badgers Act in 1992. The research showed a 77 per cent. increase in the badger population between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s. The survey also reported a halving of the incidence of illegal digging of badger setts over the same period, and concluded that reduced persecution had allowed the badger population to recover.In view of this evidence, we believe that current legislation is making an effective contribution to the protection of badgers.