A COUPLE out on a walk in the Monmouthshire countryside earlier this month were left "sickened" by an encounter with three badger-baiters.

The couple said the three men, described as being in their twenties, had set their dogs on a badger after destroying its sett with shovels.

Fortunately, the couple disturbed the three men, who ran off into the woods.

"We couldn't imagine things like that going on these days. It just seemed like a scene from the past," the husband said as he recalled their "upsetting" experience south of Chepstow Park Wood.

He said he and his wife had been enjoying a walk there when, roughly 100 metres in the distance, they saw the three men standing in the field, watching as two of their dogs lunged at the badger.

"We screamed at them and they ran off. My wife went back [home] and called the police, and I stayed to see if the badger was ok," he said.

"It was badly injured but it crawled back into its sett.

"It's really sickening. The danger is that it will be a repeat experience."

Speaking to the Argus, the couple said they wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from the men involved.

But Steve Clark, a member of the Gwent Badger Group, said it was important the couple had come forward and told both the group and the police about this attack which highlights "first-hand the barbarity of badger baiting".

"Alerting the public to the fact this evil practice still happens will help combat and possibly assist in catching perpetrators," Mr Clark said.

"This criminal activity must be a priority for police in rural areas. Badger baiting isn’t a thing of the past – it’s happening now, in our county and across the nation.”

Badgers are protected under UK law, and people who commit offences such as badger-baiting can be punished with an unlimited fine or a prison sentence of up to six months.

After visiting the scene of the attack, Mr Clark said he feared the badger in this case had died.

The Gwent Badger Group, which has protected badgers since 1974 by regularly monitoring setts and rescuing injured badgers, offers a £1,000 reward for information leading to the identification and conviction of badger-baiters.