We’ve regularly written about snaring – a blunt tool in the armoury of gamekeepers which results in the deaths of a huge but unknown numbers of native predators. Unknown because no one using these things is required to keep records of what they’ve killed. They are almost entirely used by the shooting industry to ‘protect’ grouse, pheasants and partridges until they can be sold off and killed on a shoot.
In 2016, a majority of UK MPs voted to ban the manufacture, sale, possession and use of snares here outright. That would have brought the UK in line with most countries in Europe, but the government (responding to strong lobbying from the shooting industry) instead introduced an unregulated voluntary Code of Practice. Currently the four UK administrations have separate legislation and codes of practice covering snaring (in Scotland, England and Wales, the main legislation is included in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and in Northern Ireland, the Wildlife Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1985) but all four prohibit the use of self-locking snares and outline similar ‘welfare’ guidelines (these were beautifully picked apart for us in a guest post by the Hunt Investigation Team).
However even Defra (the UK’s Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs) which routinely greenlights anything requested by shooters acknowledge that snare users persistently fail to comply, and literally every week more examples of poor practice are highlighted in the media.
In the first, a badger was found trapped in a snare which was “wrapped around its neck”. According to a report in the Ross-shire Journal, the badger was caught and taken to a local vet but had to be euthanised due to its injuries. Badgers are of course supposed to be a fully protected species, but are one of the most highly persecuted mammals in the UK, especially since the launch of the government’s misguided badger extermination scheme to protect the dairy industry has made killing badgers acceptable. Snares are not supposed to cause injuries and are supposed to ‘back off’ when an animal stops struggling – neither scenario seems at all likely, as the steel wire can cut through to the bone and of course a trapped animal will not stop struggling…
In the second, a dog was caught on in a snare set on Access Land on Kinder – National Trust land in the infamous wildlife crime hotspot of the Peak District ‘national park’, an assemblage of grouse moors where raptor persecution became so rampant that in 2018 the RSPB took the unusual step of publishing a freely-available report in the journal ‘British Birds’ to alert as many people as possible.
There are of course legitimate questions to be asked here about responsible dog ownership (was the dog off the lead in an area where ground-nesting birds were breeding, is a relevant question to ask), but that shouldn’t be used by pro-shoot lobbyists as an attempt to distract from the fact that the National Trust does not allow snaring on their holdings in the Peak District (as they conform in the tweet below).
As Moorland Monitors point out in their response to the NT, then yet again it would appear that gamekeepers working for shoots in a so-called ‘national park’ are using snares without the landowner’s permission (which is illegal).
As usual respondents in the ensuing twitter thread have queried who set the snares, with one (who says in his profile that he trained as a gamekeeper) asking whether there is “proof it was a gamekeeper that set the snare?”.
This is an argument constantly used when wildlife crime or poor practice is revealed: there is no proof of who set the snare, therefore you can’t know for sure that it was a gamekeeper. Pull the other one. Just who else would be setting snares clearly designed to trap foxes near a grouse moor? Hikers on a trip out from Sheffield? Nurses (as Mark Avery once asked in relation to raptor persecution on grouse moors) on a day out? Birdwatchers? You don’t have to be a world-renowned statistician to work out that given that snares already like this litter the Peak District, that these snares are laid by gamekeepers, that gamekeepers never deny setting snares (and why should they, they are currently legal), and that virtually no-one else in the whole of the UK would know how or where to set a snare, the overwhelming ikelihood is that this was the handiwork of a gamekeeper, operating on or near the edge of an estate and intended to trap foxes crossing from National Trust land into a grouse moor where snaring is part of a gamekeeper’s everyday role.
Incidents like this are understandably always upsetting for the owners of companion animals, but let’s also acknowledge that the snare was set to do exactly what it did: trap an animal. Dogs and foxes are closely related. They share the same capacity for sentience, for fear, for feeling pain. Unlike a pet that is (under most circumstances) fed and looked after by an owner, a wild animal has no choice but to hunt to feed itself and its family though. Countless thousands of foxes are being trapped and are suffering in snares like this every week, drawn to the overabundance of prey that shoots ‘provide’.
Snaring is part of an unvirtuous circle in which both birds and mammals inevitably lose out. Foxes wouldn’t be a ‘problem’ if shoots weren’t turning vast areas of the countryside into bird farms producing staggering numbers of birds to be killed for entertainment but which also help provide for a supposed ‘abundance’ of foxes. It is time that both recreational animal shooting and snaring were brought firmly under control before being banned entirely…
Like to help ban snares? A good place to start is with Moorland Monitors and the Hunt Investigation Team.
For further information please visit and support
- National Anti-snaring Campaign (an animal welfare organisation that campaigns against the sale and manufacture of animal snares in the UK)
- Snarewatch – an information-sharing and reporting facility about snaring in the UK run by OneKind