SETTING IT STRAIGHT-The story of the Guild of British Molecatchers

SETTING IT STRAIGHT-The story of the Guild of British Molecatchers

There sadly has been much speculation over the years on mole control and following the withdrawal of poison use many accusations and conflict was created with those that shout the loudest broadcasting  speculation over the future for this traditional craft-- so what is the truth ?

In the lead up to the withdrawal of poison as a method of controlling moles, which came into force in September 2006 a few people actively involved in mole control and specifically molecatchers were contacted to provide information on consultation prior to any decision on its withdrawal. Other representatives were contacted including animal organisations, pest control industry, land organisations etc. All invited to submit evidence following a review of methods for the control of moles in the United Kingdom, commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The review highlighted points and recommendations of which none have been either considered or instigated.
It was clear from the content of the consultation and the review, that the withdrawal of poison use against moles would have significant impact upon moles and their control in the United Kingdom. One person openly identified that the obvious withdrawal of the use of poison would create a growth in the use of alternative forms of control for mole and increase suffering to moles. It was immediately pointed by opposition for the withdrawal of poison [ mainly from the pest control industry] that this individual was opposed to the use of any form of chemical control for moles and had provided evidence in support of the withdrawal in favour of traditional mechanical devices for mole control. This was published in national papers with many poison operators making accusations that this support for the removal of the poison was putting them out of business.

There was and has never been any denial to supporting the ban on poison use and the reasons for the removal of such a substance to been placed into the history of mole control remains as strong now as it did then. The risks remain today completely substantial for it not to return as a method of mole control in the United Kingdom.

At that time 2004-2006 the popularity for being a molecatcher or offering mole control services by removal with mechanical devices was in all truth a minority service as the pest control industry preferred the less time-consuming methods such as poison worm or gas application. Those that were operating the traditional craft were mostly known to each other and at a time when most did not have web sites or media outlets, one molecatcher who did have a web site collated a contact list. The list was not for any financial or commercial use - just a contact list which anyone who needed the services of a molecatcher and did not know where to find one could ask. This seemed a turning point as most people at one time could locate a molecatcher in most village inns. But change was a foot in social society and with very few village inns actually frequented by "villagers" most preferring the comfort of a bottle of wine and a hot tub, only finding the comfort of the inn at special occasions such as Christmas when it was appropriate to socialize with friends "in the local" prior to dinner.

The successful withdrawal of the use of poison created an immediate demand for the services for anyone who could compete with the mole one to one, and many poison users decided not to change to the traditional method, possibly from a lack of ability to use mechanical devices or from the belief it would take more time from their working day.. The demand did however open opportunities for those that remained loyal to the craft and for others to begin a new venture--- mole catching!


One person to take that opportunity to change from one occupation to another contacted the molecatcher with a known list of names to suggest a designated online register for molecatchers- seemed a good idea. A list where those that worked the soil before and those new to offering the services could be found by those that required the services. An all-round win - win situation. The list of original molecatchers was used as a spine for the formation of the register and a new era in mole control was to begin. Hat off to his idea but it was to eventually divide the mole community

A national register of traditional molecatchers was formed and was accepted and soon began to increase in the numbers of people interested in being included, it was actually surprising just how many people applied for inclusion on the lists suddenly claiming decades of previous experience in "traditional" mole control?

The dedicated register for traditional molecatchers was seen by these two people in two different ways - one as a register for traditional molecatchers which in the light of the removal of poison could be used to address the predicted implications for the moles, and one that saw an opportunity for financial growth in the register.
Sadly the conflict would  divide them, the register was becoming an income to include anyone wishing to pay for inclusion. Despite trying to set a compromise - a list of molecatchers, pest control companies that controlled moles and others such as gardeners who removed moles it only widened the divide. It was originally a register for traditional molecatchers that used only the traditional method of mole removal- basically mole trapping. It had however become a list of anyone happy to deposit into a bank account and the list grew with the company names of pest control dominating over the lone molecatcher.
The growth interest from different parties using different control methods and working practices to be included was growing and the opportunity for one persons financial venture was to side line the others vision for a register of traditional molecatchers- a vision offering dedicated professional services that benefits those employing the services of a molecatcher and of course the welfare for the mole.
The two differences were soon subject to social media discussion and the "paying membership" considered that one posed a possible threat and instructed "should be expelled as a threat to possible changes" - it was then that the Guild of British Molecatchers was formed.


The formation of a national register had provided a vast amount of knowledge on the attitude and the aptitude of many offering the services for the control of moles. in the four years prior to the formation of the Guild and the withdrawal of poison use - it was clear to the  an increase in " have a go" to remove moles and with the explosion in available social and media outlets the number of molecatchers was to increase considerably.
One area went from one traditional molecatcher to over a dozen in less than a year, and all with a lifetime of experience headlining web sites and social media..
The growth in the interest of the traditional skills of the molecatcher must be a good thing as this once forgotten never spoken about craft found new life - but sadly some of that interest was to be funneled in the wrong direction
With such new interest in the use of mechanical devices against the mole or was it the new found interest to become known as a molecatcher - and the fact that the 2004 DEFRA review had highlighted requirements and recommendations, it was believed that with the formation of the Guild of British Molecatchers that the points raised, issues discussed, could be combined to produce a register for traditional mole catching which educates and provides a level of welfare for the mole -to bring mole control into the 21st century.


In the modern world the issue of animal welfare is paramount but sadly for many that consideration is of little interest in respect of any fiscal gains to be had. The Guild of British Molecatchers has never diverted away for the requirement to provide a minimum level of welfare for moles whilst under the control from man or for approval for all mechanical devices available for the use, that was the vision then and it is still today.
The original register was aimed at those people interested in mole catching as a form of mole control, to create and sustain an interest in the traditional skill and promote it as a recognised and most important an acceptable practice. It must be pointed out that recently the Guild of British Molecatchers has been informed after submitting evidence  that the Office for National Statistics  [ONS] has accepted and recognises that the occupation of molecatcher is a designated occupation and is not included under the title of Pest Control- It clearly divides the two occupations in the same way as many other occupations that once were stand alone occupations have over time been pulled in collectively by those seeking to multitask their services.

If traditional mole catching is to continue then it must fall in line with the demands of the opinions of an ever-watching world. To do that it needs all  those that undertake the work to display the correct presentation and most important attitude towards traditional mole catching.
The Guild of British Molecatchers had to openly show that intent and to be clear about the future for mole control and to convince those that opposed the need for controlling moles  that it does and can be a humane form of mole control and there is a requirement for the modern molecatcher.

There is always scrutiny of any form of animal management and often its is accepted that things are carried out correctly,humanely  and according to guidelines, sadly this is not always the truth and the pest industry is fortunate to be self regulating and is able to mark its own homework.

With traditional mole catching things are different there is no governing body- no DEFRA representation, ministerial advisors or suited mates to put forward the points that can monitor any needs for implementation or change.

The fact is that like other species that are granted attention to detail the humble moles are left to fend for themselves, after all - out of sight- out of mind.

It had to be down to the honesty and the integrity of the members of the Guild of British Molecatchers to both stand up and to speak up for traditional mole catching  - it needed those people that practiced what they advertised to be transparent and set a standard so all that opposed to any control of moles or objected to methods would see the traditional method remained if carried out correctly is the most humane form of control.

It was down to the members of the Guild at that time to set the foundation -

The Membership for the Guild at this time was Free of charge it included free advertisement as with the other register and extra incentives as free vehicle decal, opportunity to learn about traditional mole control in free educational on line assessments- each awarded with free certification and further free decal.
The need to explain the reasons for those involved in mole control to offer a humane level of control met opposition from various individuals who opposed any requirement for education, animal welfare or anything that might impose upon their preferred practice of set it and leave it- check back whenever
The offer of free membership and give away logo's to display on web sites and paperwork bought hundreds of people to the Guild. The support seemed overwhelming, all agreeing under the terms of membership to support the main point - they would inspect any device placed for the control of a mole a minimum of once a day by working to the Guild of British Molecatchers - working code of practice..- yes they all agreed to inspect their devices once a day!

The social forums were red hot -
This was the very point that caused the original split in the register  - people still advertising their services and supporting financially on the first register did not agree with the need for inspecting a device for a mole once a day and if the original register was to support it- they would leave- resulting in financial loss. A letter was sent out to all members stating that the register would not and does not support the need for any trap to be inspected once a day.

The riff created interest in both available listings for molecatcher services and the sudden discovery of free membership over a paid subscription instantly gained support and surprisingly from- yes you guessed it - from those on the other register- they were welcomed as people can and do change- well some do.
The advertisements for services displayed prowess and proclamation to offering services of daily inspection of devices but in time the spots on the cheetah revealed themselves - the something for nothing enticed them- but once asked to support the need for any level of welfare for a mole under the direct control man- some reverted to old ways with dual personalities - Mr Jeckle remaining as one on the Guild and Mr Hyde - well doing just that- hiding as another on social media.
This is always an issue - so many claim, even display in word, that devices are checked once a day but are they? Some display a regular inspection- that was found to be maybe once a week, with so many animal welfare groups opposing any form of animal control it is more important than ever to be open and agree to a workable practice that provides some level of welfare than to have something that is not. It is important to note - One United Kingdom animal welfare organisation have stated that any mechanical device placed for a mole should be inspected twice a day.- so there is an interest in the mole welfare.

It is not surprising the open display of "working to a code of practice" posted on organisations and web sites in more cases than most- means absolutely diddly squat- if it is not worked too or monitored then it only displays those people for what they truly are.

A test of truth

The Guild had hundreds of members [ be it on a free of charge to join] but all agreeing to support the need for a once-a-day inspection so the Guild of British Molecatchers put it to the test. At the time there was an opportunity for Ministers to discuss issues from petition. The required number of votes was well within the number of members of the Guild so it was asked that all members submit to a petition for Ministers to look at the welfare for moles.  It was posted how to submit a vote  on the Guild web site and received 117 votes with over 100 votes submitted not from the molecatchers but from members of the public, those claiming to be traditional molecatchers, the very people that openly displayed support for a level of mole welfare as members and displayed on their own web sites failed to do exactly that- support.

It was interesting that the amount of votes the proposal received from members of the public indicating that it is not just those interested in traditional mole catching that take time to read and browse mole orientated web sites?

The message was clear - something for nothing does not work- the Guild still wanted to assist in as many ways it could, those truly supportive of traditional mole catching as a form of mole control- so it needed to identify those honest members.          

The Guild of British Molecatchers has always stated it is not for profit, not out to make money from those it has always aimed to assist so membership was changed - it was decided that a donation to a charity was required to become or remain a member. This came under immediate criticism as it was decided to donate to "make a wish foundation " a charity for children with limited life expectancy. Some members complained that other charities should have been included but it was "make a wish " and why- because it was whilst catching moles as a boy in a grave yard that an inscription touched a nerve - a bud born on earth to bloom in heaven - the decision had been made many years before. The donation for a year was set at £20-00p donated direct to "make a wish" so no accusation for financial gain could be made.

From then till when further change in the Guild was made- the membership donations raised over £16,500, a lot of £20 donations for which the Guild was thanked by Make a Wish -at a milestone of reaching £10,000 at a presentation in a London Hotel. - Yes there was further criticism by some when some members attended this, but it was an attendance that was open to any member that wanted to attend and there was no cost to the Guild, the full hotel hospitality for those members that did take time and trouble to represent the Guild was all paid for by a single personal contribution.[no cost to the Guild]


The request for a donation to charity did have some further effect- now being asked to put hand in pocket - if only by a donation to a charity meant to many -as now paying to support an organisation that was seeking for a level of welfare for the mole. It removed the cloak many were hiding behind, exposed some ex-members who often out of character  joined in shouting opposition to what they previously had pledged to support and they seemed drawn to  join in on forums that opposed the need for animal welfare where postings targeted the Guild with both physical and verbal threats,

The Guild gained support from a national pest control organisation who for a couple of years fully endorsed both its view on animal welfare and the educational process it provided but it was to be expected that with time the financial influence would once again play a part, and opposition from many working in the Pest Control industry for any proposal that a requirement for any device placed for the control of a mole is inspected once a day should not be supported. The threat of any loss of membership subscription fees was made perfectly clear and resulted in the Pest Control organisation withdrawing support.

The evidence of any possible financial loss clearly influences decisions, even those that involve the treatment of animals whilst under the direct control of man.

The Guild of British Molecatchers continued to ensure the need for levels of welfare for moles and to provide support for its members on a non-profit basis. The Guild of British Molecatchers was paid for from the start by a personal donation, it has changed again and still remains non-profit although a subscription is required- it pays for the administration of the Guild such as the web pages you are reading this on, the future for traditional mole control to continue as a recognised and accepted service, it must strive to remain open in what it does and stands for, and not hide behind grandstanding on media sites, false claims and threats. Most important is for all those who claim on which ever organisation, association, pay to be there advertising site offering a service to control a mole - do so to promote a future in traditional mole catching and no just a fiscal opportunity or to snitch and bitch at others.


The Guild has recently obtained a better low cost hosting reducing the running costs and immediately reflected this in line with its - Not out to make money from its membership and has reduced the membership fee - it will continue to strive to work for its members and the future of traditional mole control.


Guild Members donating £10,000 to Make a Wish                                                                               

The Tie may have changed but the Status remains
Sadly to many the ability to work and earn such an award remains beyond reach