What happens if your concerns for animal welfare get the better of you and you close the loops of a huge number of snares thinking, like most people, that they’re banned in the UK and that far from doing anything ‘wrong’ you’re only helping to save wildlife (snares? we’ve written about them here)? You get an article where you’re lectured at by a shooting lobbyist, who blathers on about how cuddly snares are and trots out the usual guff about management, welfare standards, and pests.
At least that’s the thrust of yet another defense of snares in a newspaper published in the heart of wildlife crime country – Yorkshire – yesterday.
It came about when a walker “spoke of her horror at finding snares” on land owned by Yorkshire Water (a utility under huge pressure from the public and animal welfare organisations to ban shooting on its extensive landholdings). The walker spent an hour “disabling them and had reported the matter to Yorkshire Water” who via the newspaper admonished her with the sort of messaging that comes straight from the page of the shooters’ handbook titled ‘Here’s how we defend snares to the public because they’re too stupid to know any better”. Snares are, according to Yorkshire Water, laid to protect “endangered species from predators“. Ah, the ‘Curlew Defense’. Yep, Curlews would explain why tens of thousands of snares litter woodlands and moorland from one end of Great Britain to the other. It’s as risible as thinking the public would fall for – say – driving to a beauty spot to ‘test your eyesight’…
A BASC spokesperson was then contacted to explain that “modern fox snares, used in accordance with relevant Codes of Practice, are a humane and legal form of pest control”. Okay, the ‘humane and legal’ defence too. Classic stuff. Because absolutely everyone will believe that trapping a wild animal and leaving it to struggle to escape and at the mercy of other predators is humane (as is then blowing its head off or clobbering it with a stick). And of course, they tell us, it’s all about ‘pest control’. What that actually means of course is that wild animals might make a tiny dent in the profits of the shooting industry by eating a few of ‘their’ released non-native pheasants or a few of the overstocked and essentially farmed Red Grouse that – remember – they intend to sell to a ‘sportsman’ to kill on a fun day out.
The newspaper article goes on to point out that MPs “voted to ban snares in 2016 but the government has never made it law, instead drawing up a new code of practice“. Let that sink in. The government voted to ban these damnable things, but instead allowed the shooting industry to draw up ‘Codes of Practice‘ instead. ‘Codes of Practice that change nothing as far as the gamekeeper and lobbyists are concerned, are non-statutory, and are barely enforceable anyway – partly because every time a member of the public attempts to help wildlife the lobbyists are on hand to muddy the waters and bang on about how much they love Mr Tod and only have his (and of course her) best interests at heart. Perhaps we’re supposed to believe that chucking the corpse on a stink pit afterwards is an act of devotion as well?
So what actually happens when a concerned member of the public (you and me perhaps) discover a bunch of snares? They are legally private property, and the same article quotes wildlife crime officer PC Caroline Newsome, confirming she had recently recorded a crime of “deliberately damaged snares” in the Huddersfield area. We have a huge amount of respect for PC Newsome (we reproduced a pro-wildlife tweet of hers here), but it’s an irony isn’t it that it’s a crime to ‘deliberately damage’ a snare but virtually anyone can kill a fox as long as it’s (cough) done humanely (which apparently includes battering it with a baseball bat while wearing a kimono).
Besides which it’s difficult to be sure where deliberate damage begins and ends. Presumably ripping up a snare and clubbing it to metaphoric death is deliberate damage, but Police Scotland themselves say that if a snare is “found not to be free running it should be removed or repaired” and any non-target animals should be released (which would include examples such as the two lambs caught in ‘legal’ snares in – you guessed it – Yorkshire the day before yesterday). What is or isn’t a free-running snare is defined online (it’s essentially a snare that should relax when the animal stops pulling) but it’s not always clear and presumes you clearly understand the difference anyway.
Is it against the law to just close a snare off though? Let’s be clear, we are not suggesting that anyone interfere with a snare (the law says that is an offence ‘to damage or remove snares and to disrupt a lawful activity, such as snaring‘) but it’s hard to see how simply leaving the snare in place and intact but closing the loop so it can’t kill anything could be considered damaging it in law. What – in law – is disrupting snaring? If anyone would be good enough to clarify the legal position in the comments below we’d be grateful and we’ll amend advice accordingly.
If we don’t want to risk a tiresome public lecture from the shooting industry, what can we actually do if we want these bloody things removed from the countryside though? We could always support the organisations working to ban snaring through legislation (eg League Against Cruel Sports, OneKInd, Moorland Monitors etc) and report snares to the authorities whenever we find a snare that might be being used wrongly (we’re not suggesting that we tie up the system, but given that there are plenty of illegally- or improperly-used snares out there, perhaps it might focus minds a little bit).
As we’ve said before though, what might be more effective in the long-term is that we can simply keep on doing what so very many of us are doing right now: telling the truth. Be angry when we need to be, calm and measured when that would work best, but tell the truth. Challenge the status quo, the perceived wisdom, the assertions stated as facts, the myths and downright lies told about foxes and other predators. And keep on reminding friends, family, and colleagues that snares (banned across nearly all of Europe) are allowed here simply because the shooting industry demanded that they should be. As Parliament has apparently voted to ban them once, the tipping point can’t be too far off…
- Header image of snared fox, glenogle, copyright OneKind
- For a previous article looking in more detail at snares please see Snares: legally binding