Lady Scarsdale says she would like a machine gun to shoot badgers after ‘slaughter’ of lambs at her ancestral home
A Viscountess has blamed badgers for the slaughter of 200 lambs on her family’s estate, as she called for a widespread cull of the animals.
Helene, Viscountess Scarsdale, a formidable aristocrat, said the lambs had been killed in three years, while also accusing the National Trust, which now owns historic Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, of allowing the badgers to “wreak havoc”.
She said 500 acres of “beautiful” parkland at Kedleston, which has been in the family for almost 1,000 years, had been allowed to turn into “thistles and nettles” by the trust, which in turn had let badgers thrive.
The National Trust took over Kedleston about 30 years ago. Their son, the fourth Viscount Scarsdale, lives in a wing of the stately home. She said she had been horrified by what she believes is the killing of lambs owned by a tenant farmer.
Lady Scarsdale inspects a sett at Kedleston Hall Credit: Andrew Fox
Badgers, she says, have also killed hedgehogs and bees in her grounds. Farmers have been demanding a cull of badgers, blaming them for the spread of bovine tuberculosis.
Badgers are protected but pilot culls are in place in Dorset, Gloucestershire and Somerset.
Lady Scarsdale, 81, told The Telegraph: “In just three or four years, 200 lambs have been killed by badgers. They leave such a mess in the fields. They shred their victims immediately. Badgers are far worse than foxes. They eat everything.
“They have these claws and teeth that lock on. All they leave behind is the spine and skull.
“We need to get rid of the badgers. I would like a machine gun. I said to friends, ‘Would you visit me in prison?’ and they said, ‘Well, that’s where you will be’.”
Lady Scarsdale launched her assault on badgers and the National Trust in an open letter in Country Life.
She wrote: “This part of Derbyshire is suffering badly, and soon there will be no creatures great or small left in this beautiful park, which is fast being covered in thistles and nettles.”
She concluded: “I wonder if the trust would be brave enough to tell visiting children what happens to lambs, hedgehogs and fledglings here at Kedleston?
“It’s time to cull badgers to a sensible amount.”
Professor Rosie Woodroffe, Britain’s leading badger expert and a senior research fellow with the Institute of Zoology, suggested that badger attacks on lambs of this scale are unlikely.
Prof Woodroffe said: “It is not inconceivable, but it would be very unusual for badgers to kill that many lambs. It would be a lot for badgers to eat.”
She said it would be more likely that the dead lambs were stillborn and that badgers had scavenged the carcasses.
We need to get rid of the badgers. I would like a machine gun Lady Scarsdale
“I would not say she [Lady Scarsdale] is definitely, definitely wrong, but I would be looking at whether this is scavenging of lambs that are already dead. Badgers are not good hunters; they are not agile animals,” Prof Woodroffe added.
She said badgers’ main diet was earthworms and they would eat hundreds in a night’s feeding. The National Trust said it would be happy to meet Lady Scarsdale.
A spokesman said: “In rare circumstances a badger might attack a particularly weak, isolated or ill lamb.
“We monitor and track badger populations. We are not aware of any evidence that this is an issue at Kedleston.
“If Lady Scarsdale would like to speak with the local team, we’d be very happy to discuss what can be done to ensure the sheep and the badgers – a protected species under UK law – can happily coexist.”
Badger Trust 2nd August 2016
Badger Trust condemns Lady Scarsdale article in Telegraph as
The Badger Trust has condemned a recent article in the Daily Telegraph as ‘irresponsible propaganda’. The piece featured an interview with Helene, Viscountess Scarsdale who claims that badgers are responsible for killing up to 200 lambs on her land and included the statement “We need to get rid of badgers. I would like a machine gun.”
Responding to the article the CEO of the Badger Trust, Dominic Dyer, said:
“This article makes absurd claims about badgers killing lambs without presenting a shred of evidence to support them. Badgers are not active predators but opportunist scavengers whose main diet is earthworms. Unfortunately there has been a concerted propaganda campaign by the farming and ‘countryside’ lobby over the last few years to turn public opinion against the badger in order to try and justify the Conservative government’s failing cull policy.
“What this story really highlights is a tragic lack of good animal husbandry on behalf of a farm that is allowing hundreds of lambs to die. Badgers may well scavenge a carcass if they find one but it’s far more likely that these lambs have died of neglect and been scavenged by foxes. Despite having legal protection, the badger is one of the most persecuted wild animals in Britain, with thousands of them shot, snared, gassed or baited with dogs every year across the country. It is therefore utterly irresponsible for a national newspaper to print such unfounded claims as it simply encourages more of this kind of criminal behaviour.”
Also responding to the article the Chair of the Badger Trust, Peter Martin, said:
“With this article the Telegraph has plumbed new depths in standards of journalism. They have clearly distanced themselves from these rather asinine remarks by Lady Scarsdale but are nevertheless happy to exploit her preposterous claims and opinions in order to further their political agenda regarding the badger culls. These were clearly unguarded observations and probably made without much thought or consideration for the embarrassment they have caused her and the National Trust.
Ultimately, this article will backfire on its authors because the British public simply aren’t that gullible when it comes to wildlife and farming issues. Claims such as these show up the self-appointed guardians of our countryside as not only pitifully ignorant about wildlife ecology but also negligent in the care of their own livestock.”
Find the full Telegraph article here
The Badger Trust Team
Badger Trust, P.O. Box 708, East Grinstead, RH19 2WN