The Association for the Protection of Wild Animals (Aspas) has filed an official petition addressed to the Senate. Its goal: to protect the badger by prohibiting underground hunting (digging up with tongs and dogs), a practice considered cruel.
The badger is one of the animals that can be hunted according to the mode of venery (digging up with pliers and with a dog), a “traditional hunting” considered by its detractors as cruel. An associative petition officially addressed to the Senate wishes to prohibit this practice; 30,000 signatures are missing.
Published on March 30, 2022, this petition has a real utility. If the level of 100,000 signatures is reached in less than six months (i.e. before September 30), the Senate undertakes to study the question: the institution has the power to propose laws, to launch commissions of inquiry or fact-finding missions.
The Association for the Protection of Wild Animals (Aspas) wants to be the advocate of this peaceful mammal, little known, but nevertheless “extraordinary”. More and more people want to protect it (it is currently a huntable species except, notable exception, in the Bas-Rhin).
In Aube, Jacqueline Gillet has a double role: vice-president of the local League for the Protection of Birds (LPO), and Aspas referent for this department. It is therefore in two ways that she tells France 3 Champagne-Ardenne what badgers – and foxes too – suffer. “The hunters arrive with dogs, shovels. They dig into the burrows and throw the dogs into them.”
“The badgers are cornered, are bitten. If this happens too soon, the young are killed. The hunters then tear the badgers from their burrows with pliers, then throw them to the dogs or kill them with knives, or even shoot them.”
Underground hunting takes place from September 15 to January 15, according to the Internet page dedicated to it by the National Hunting Federation; which explains and justifies this practice where would take precedence “a deep respect for the hunted animal”. The prefectures can extend this legal duration at their convenience, generally by advancing it to the beginning of the summer: Aspas has made an official request to counter this extension, but the prefect has sent the association to graze (“unfavorable opinion”).
But what is that for ? “To nothing at all”chants Jacqueline Gillet. “It’s filthy, despicable, horrible, dreadful. We always bring up the tradition, but the problem with this tradition is that in the past, we hunted to eat. Now we hunt for pleasure: the pleasure of killing , slaughter everything. While the badger does no damage, there is no declaration [allant dans ce sens].” If damage does exist (reported by the Association française de vénerie, in fields or on the embankments of railway tracks), they are avoidable.
On the other hand, chasing the badger into its burrow in this way would cause other unsuspected damage. “It will destroy the other inhabitants of the burrows. In general, they are also occupied by feral cats, strictly protected, or bats: they rest there, they are in danger of extinction, and they are strictly protected .”
We hunt for pleasure: the pleasure of killing, of massacring everything.Jacqueline Gillet, local referent of Aspas/vice-president of the LPO Champagne-Ardenne
Besides its fascinating role as a species-engineer (its burrow is sometimes compared to a “HLM underground”), the badger is known to be clean and self-regulating. To note “that badgers will eat mice, these species that spread ticks that cause Lyme disease. They are not overpopulated. They are also often accused of being a vector of bovine tuberculosis. But it’s the other way around “It’s the cows that transmit them. We realized that killing badgers didn’t change the problem. Wild boars and deer, which are much more present, are also affected, but it’s blamed on badgers.”
In Europe, France is a bad student. “We hope that one day the badger will be protected like in many other countries: Italy, Spain, Portugal, [Îles Britanniques]Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Hungary… That it is no longer hunted, as in Greece or in the Bas-Rhin, since 2004.” The unique situation of this department in France gave rise to a news as unusual as it is interesting: a farm preferred to live with the badger which was damaging its wheat rather than hunting it (see the location on the map below).
“The problem is that when the badger is disturbed in the forest by digging it up, it will go down to the plains, and that’s where it will make holes and bother the farmers. The wheels of the tractors can get caught in the badger villages, and there is then material breakage. But the farmers are beginning to understand that there is no point in slaughtering them.” The badger being very territorial, it will always come back to the charge. Killed, it will quickly be replaced by a congener. Might as well try to empty the barrel of the Danaides.
Aspas is hopeful of seeing the petition succeed, despite “the hunting lobby”. To ensure its validity and rigor, the Senate conditions the signature on authentication via France Connect (the identifier you use to pay your taxes online, for example). To fill up on the missing signatures before September 30, the LPO will relay the call during the weekend of September 3 and 4. The L214 association will do the same in mid-September: there is a strong associative commitment to defend these so decried mustelids.