We’ve written many times about snares on this website (see for example – Snares: legally binding). While many people assume that snares (essentially wire nooses used to trap wild animals) are banned here in the UK, in fact hundreds of thousands of the things are set all over the country. Who is putting them out? Small numbers are used by the farming industry, perhaps some allotment-owners use them – but the vast majority are laid by the shooting industry to trap foxes so they can be killed at leisure. Why foxes? Because they (quite naturally) take small numbers of the 50 MILLION pheasants and partridges released every year to be shot, and small numbers of the 500,000 or so Red Grouse farmed in the uplands every year to be shot. And nothing can be allowed to dent shooting’s profits…
Shooting claims that rising numbers of foxes means they need to be ‘controlled’ by gamekeepers. One question the industry seems to avoid is why there are so many foxes around when the industry itself spends so much time shooting, poisoning, and snaring them? That would be food availability. And what food source has increased enormously in what is acknowledged to be a nature-depleted country where natural food is increasingly hard to find? That would be pheasants and partridges…
No-one knows how many snares are out there, but monitors think that on some grouse moors there are as many as three hundred! Lowland shooting estates are ringed by snares. No-one knows how many animals are being trapped and killed because operators aren’t required to log what they kill. What is known is that huge numbers of animals other than foxes are also killed in snares – a Defra report published in 2012 found that badgers and hares were regularly trapped. Companion animals like dogs are regularly trapped. Even otters have been snared.
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).
Despite all the evidence about the cruelty, suffering, and misuse of even ‘legal’ and ‘code compliant’ snares – and opposition to snares from the public – the government insist that snares are here to stay. On 21st April this year, in a written Parliamentary answer to a question by Dr Rupa Huq MP (Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton) asking “the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of banning the use of snares in the UK”, Rebecca Pow MP (who has often lobbied on behalf of the shooting industry) gave a bland and disingenuous answer that included a link to shooting lobbyists BASC:
“We are aware of the concerns around the use of snares, which can cause immense suffering to both target and non-target animals. It is an issue we are looking at closely as part of our continued drive to maintain the highest animal welfare standards in the world..
Anyone using snares has a responsibility under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to act within the law to ensure their activities do not harm protected species or cause any unnecessary suffering.
The Government has no current plans to ban the use of all animal snares. Snares are controlled in England and Wales under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This already prohibits the use of self-locking snares and the setting of any type of snare in places where they are likely to catch certain non-target animals such as badgers. It also requires snares to be inspected on a daily basis.
When practised to a high standard, and in accordance with the law, snaring can offer an effective means to reduce the harmful impacts of foxes on livestock, game and wildlife.
The code of practice for the use of snares to control foxes in England can be found at https://basc.org.uk/cop/snares-for-fox-control-in-england/. This code is designed and owned by the sector, rather than Government. It sets out clear principles for the legal and humane use of snares, using evidence from snare use research to improve snare deployment and design.Rebecca Pow MP, written answer, 26 April 21
The key sentence in that parroting of BASC’s ‘advice’ on snaring contains the key sentence: “when practised to a high standard“. As we’ve already stated there are mountains of evidence to prove that using snares and ‘high standards’ are words that hardly even belong in the same sentence. Even when code-compliant snares are set and inspected to best practice standards, they still cause significant injury and death. In effect, this response officially sanctions “suffering”.
So how might those of us oppsed to snares (which appears to be almost everyone except some MPs and the shooting industry) help rid the countryside of them?
Simon Wild, of the excellent National Anti-snaring Campaign, has just launched an epetition which asks that the government makes the use of free running snares illegal, putting them in the same category as self-locking snares which are already illegal.
He believes (and we agree with him) that “people setting free-running snares cannot ensure animal welfare as required under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, that such snares cause unnecessary suffering to mammals, are indiscriminate and should be banned“.
If you agree with him as well, then please consider signing the petition by clicking this link or the image below.