The controversial practice of snaring will now be considered by MPs, writes Stuart Spray

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Animal welfare groups have welcomed the announcement of a parliamentary debate on banning snares – used to catch animals – which has been triggered by an online petition by Animal Aid.

A snare is a piece of wire with a loop used by farmers and gamekeepers to catch animals such as foxes and rabbits which they consider to be pests. The snares are fixed to logs, fence posts or trees with the wire noose positioned across a trail so that it catches the passing animal by the neck. 

The debate on the use of snares will take place on 9 January.

The Welsh Government announced earlier this year that Wales will be the first country in the UK to introduce a complete ban on the use of snares. After years of lobbying by animal welfare charities, the Scottish Government’s Scottish Animal Welfare Commission also recommended last week that “the sale of snares and their use by both public and industry are banned in Scotland, on animal welfare grounds”. 

Chris Luffingham, deputy chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, told Byline Times that “the evidence is clear that all snares, including those labelled ‘humane’, are indiscriminate and cruel in how they capture and slowly kill wild animals and even domestic pets”.

“Only a full ban on snares will protect wildlife and we were pleased to support the petition and were delighted to see it reach the numbers required for a proper debate about snaring in Parliament,” he added.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is opposed to the manufacture, sale and use of all snares and traps that cause animals to suffer. An RSPCA spokesperson told Byline Times that it welcomes the debate on this issue because “animals caught by snares can be trapped for prolonged periods of time and can die slowly from dehydration, starvation or exhaustion if they are not found”.

Protect the Wild – a non-profit organisation set up to tackle wildlife persecution – also fully supports a ban. Its founder, Rob Pownall, describes snares as a “low-cost, low-skilled way to kill, maim or injure wildlife” – adding that “any society that wants to claim it has compassion and kindness, a love for animals, and a genuine desire for animal welfare wouldn’t allow them anywhere near our countryside or our wildlife”.

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A Dearth of Evidence

However, Tim Bonner, CEO of the Countryside Alliance – a campaigning organisation for field sports and rural communities – claims that snares are a crucial tool for wildlife managers, particularly those conserving threatened ground nesting birds.

Bonner admits that no method of control is without risk in terms of animal welfare, but that properly conducted snaring is humane, holding the animal until it can be dispatched or released.

“Effective fox control requires a range of different methods. Snares can provide round the clock protection and are effective in the spring and summer when crops are high and shooting can be less effective,” he said.  

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) does not use snares for predator control on any of the 222 nature reserves it manages across the UK – saying that there is no evidence which proves that snares are a necessary component of a predator control programme aimed at the recovery of wild bird populations. 

“While sustained predator management can suppress numbers of predators locally and in the short term, the RSPB believes that landscape-scale restoration is needed to reduce the high numbers of generalist predators and their impacts on ground-nesting birds,” a spokesperson said.

The Countryside Alliance, National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO), National Farmers’ Union (NFU), and the Game and Wildlife Conservancy Trust (GWCT) are all signatories to the code of practice on the use of snares for fox control in England and Wales. 

But, in a recent review of the use of snares in the UK, Animal Aid argued that best practice compliance was difficult to monitor and that there was “no evidence of significant improvement in the uptake of the code of practice” since its publication in 2016. 

Although several hunting and shooting organisations provide courses for their members on the legal use of snares, training is not mandatory and snares can be purchased by anyone regardless of their experience. This newspaper was able to purchase a pack of 10 snares on the internet for just £23.99 without any background checks being carried out by the seller. 

An example of a snare. Photo: Stuart Spray

The Labour Party pledged to ban the use and sale of snares in its 2019 Animal Welfare Manifesto and Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for rural Oldham East and Saddleworth, reiterated its position, saying: “I support the introduction of a ban on snares and glue traps. We are one of only five countries in Europe that do not prohibit the use of snares, and the Government should ban them. Current legislation is failing to protect animals from harm. Snares regularly cause unnecessary suffering and harm to animals as a result of incorrect usage.”

In its Action Plan for Animal Welfare, published in May 2021, the Government promised to “launch a call for evidence on the use of snares”. 

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson acknowledged that when used improperly “snares can cause immense suffering to both target and non-targeted animals” adding that it is “looking closely at the use of snares as part of our continued drive to maintain the highest animal welfare standards in the world”.

The NFU, GWCT and NGO refused to comment.

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