5 Star Killers
It couldn’t be any more ironic that the beautiful Cotswold parish and village of Castle Combe in North Wiltshire, which was the setting for the 1967 flim Dr Dolittle, is now to become infamous for its recent inclusion in the latest killing zone of Wiltshire’s Badgers.
Farmers in Castle Combe have enthusiastically welcomed the slaughter of the quintessentially English badger which they are currently taking part in. Indeed, one such farmer, Ben Prior of Upper Castle Combe Farm has been demanding a cull of badgers on the flawed basis they were infecting his soon-to-be-slaughtered-anyway cattle. In 2008 he could be excused for scientific ignorance, if not for an inbred belief that animals – wild and farm – exist for his profit. But not any longer, the scientific consensus can no longer be ignored that culling doesn’t work. It came as no surprise that the cull is being embraced in this otherwise quaint little village. What we are surprised about was the use of illegal traps on the nearby Manor Hotel and Golf Club.
Now the Manor is in fact a 5* luxury Hotel and Golf course set in 365 acres of the Cotswold countryside. And you know, golf clubs aren’t keen on, you know…living breathing animals…daring to take up space on their vast acreage. However, one recent holiday-maker to the Manor went for a wander on the vast Manor grounds, and soon spotted a badger in distress in one of the many woodlands around the course, fortunately she recorded the incident on her phone as the distressed badger hobbled into one of the sett holes, she can be heard on her original video that the badger had a trap with a chain attached to the rear left leg. The upset holiday-makers had naturally informed the hotel groundskeeper as soon as they could, who in turn did the grand sum of jack-shit to assist the animal.
The video came to the attention of Wiltshire Against the Badger Cull the next day, when someone notified us they had seen it online. We were keen to locate the badger to see what help we could organise. Sadly we had been unable to contact the holiday-maker at the time, despite our best efforts, so all we had to go on was her publicly available holiday video of the badger and her walk through the vast grounds of the hotel and golf course. Some of Wiltshire Against the Badger Cull along with our friends from Beds & Bucks Hunt Sabs were tasked with locating the sett – a task akin to locating a needle in a haystack. Soon enough the sett was located and rescue planning began.
Now it’s not easy to rescue an injured badger when it has gone to ground, it’s really just a waiting game. Rescuers visited discreetly and often, offering tempting treats close to the sett, our friends at a local rescue centre were commissioned to design a purpose built crate to tempt the badger into. Day 4 of the unfolding drama, rescuers noted a lot of Greenbottle activity around one of the sett holes, and went about setting a trail cam for filming the set in the hope of some activity. Our first attempt to set the trail cam was thwarted by a hired thug. Now we don’t know if it was the hotel or the adjoining farm that hired this man, but certainly what happened next was more than disturbing. Our rescuers armed with nothing but their determination to help the injured animal, parked up next the golf course entrance on a public road in the evening. A truck, later identified as being a the vehicle and 2-man shooter team involved in the ongoing badger cull which was identified as shooting badgers the night before on the adjoining farmland which is owned (surprise surprise) by Upper Castle Combe Farm, the thug and his sidekick drove his truck in front of the two female rescuers vehicle blocking their escape before harassing, filming, photographing, attempting to get into the door, then eventually ramming into their vehicle and damaging it. Luckily the dash cam was still running, and the clear face of the thug was given to police to investigate.
Sadly, this attack delayed plans to monitor the sett with the camera, so instead, we went the following day and set the camera, then going back 24 hours later to retrieve the footage. Upon entering the woods near the sett we were distraught to be met with the smell of death. Footage confirmed there was no animal activity around the sett for the previous 24 hours. Angry and upset we decided to attempt to retrieve the Fenn type trap which ultimate killed this beautiful animal, however, we were under no illusion that the Wiltshire Police Wildlife Officer doesn’t really like investigating wildlife crimes when they’re carried out by the hunting shooting culling brigade, and at the very least would demand video footage and a signed confession of the crime before even bothering to attend, so we decided we needed to make sure that the hotel is answers for this hideous crime against the wildlife ourselves. Given we were unable to retrieve the trap underground, we were able to contact the original witness to the incident who confirmed what she saw as as being “on [the} left back leg with roughly a 3 inch chain on it and I can only say it was like big jaws that were closed on its leg”.
Ensuring we didn’t disturb the otherwise-abandoned sett, the badger was removed from where he died in one of the sett entrances, clearly a few days into decomposition as maggots were busy doing their work. At first glance we thought the leg, and the trap was missing, we could only count three legs. Closer inspection revealed a horrific injury and the badgers leg was snapped in two, and the trap was nowhere to be found. We suspect the trap is deep in the tunnel and we weren’t able to retrieve it, the thought of the poor animal getting it caught underground and having to break his own leg in half to get free, doesn’t bear thinking about. Now given the vast area of the Manor Land it is inconceivable that this trap found itself on this poor badger from anywhere else but very close to this sett.
Fenn traps are soon to be illegal in the trapping of stoats, they are often illegally set without a tunnel, so not only are they indiscriminate killers of small animals but when not set legally, they are also a risk to larger animals like badgers, or even cats and dogs. I’ve had gamekeepers say to me “a Fenn trap can’t kill a badger”, well they may not kill them instantly but this badger lasted only a day or possibly two after being trapped, and those days must have felt like forever in excruciating pain that his animal would have felt as it slowly died. Our poor badger has left this world now and won’t have left a trace of being here at all, in direct contrast with his killers who have littered all across the countryside with these evil, barbaric torture devices.
Is it not bad enough that our badgers are scapegoated by the government and subjected to a needless bloody cull, without stupid golf clubs illegally leaving these barbaric things lying around to kill and maim indiscriminately. This is why we are asking you to contact the Manor Hotel and Golf Club on 01249 782982 or 01249 782206 and ask them why they are illegally using Fenn traps on their land. Whilst you’re at it, ask them what their position on the badger cull is.