At the League Against Cruel Sports, we campaign on a wide range of issues. We are known for our campaigns on hunting, on bullfighting, and most recently uncovering the scourge of dog fighting in the UK. But one of our main priorities is one of the least known - snares. Snares are thin wire nooses set to trap animals seen as a pest or threat, usually foxes and rabbits. They are intended to catch animals around the neck like a lasso.
But that's not exactly how they work in practice. In reality, the primitive design of a snare means it silently garrottes its victims, and often leads to a painful and lingering death. Government figures suggest that 1.7 million animals are caught in snares every year. The scale of suffering for British wildlife is devastating, but this suffering goes largely unheralded.
That is why it was so good to see a full debate on snares in the House of Commons yesterday. Brought forward by Jim Dowd, MP for Lewisham and Penge and an honorary life member of the League, the motion called on MPs to support a ban on the manufacture, sale, use, and possession of snares. The vast majority of MPs spoke in favour of a ban. Jim Dowd said that it is imperative that MPs take action on behalf of those who cannot take it for themselves, and this includes animals. He rightly pointed out that only one quarter of the creatures caught in snares are foxes. Cats, dogs, deer, badgers, and otters can all fall victim to these devices.
His sentiment was echoed by other Members. George Howarth said that "most people are appalled by the barbarity and cruelty of the practice". Kirsten Oswald said animal welfare should be a top priority for MPs, as it is for their constituents. It was encouraging, too, to hear Labour's Environment Spokesperson Rachael Maskell say that Labour favour a ban, and the League very much welcomes that commitment.
There were, sadly, those who attended the debate merely to defend the use of snares and they were, predictably, closely aligned with the shooting industry. Simon Hart, MP and a consultant for the Countryside Alliance, and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, who has enjoyed hospitality from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, both spoke in favour of snares.
As Labour MP Ann Clwyd stated during the debate, snaring is cruel, lethal and a sop to the commercial shooting industry.
The debate also saw the debut of Therese Coffey as a Minister in the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Her response to the debate was deeply disappointing. She said that there was no need to worry about the suffering inflicted on animals by snares because the Countryside Alliance and the BASC have devised a new code of conduct. Forgive me if I don't hold my breath waiting to see if this improves the lives of animals.
The reality is that no code of conduct is sufficient. Snares, by their very nature, are indiscriminate. As long as they are legal, they will catch not only foxes but also badgers, hares and pet cats and dogs.
Therese Coffey said during the debate that Britain has the highest animal welfare standards in the world. When it comes to snares, that's utter nonsense - we're practically alone in Europe when it comes to allowing their use. I believe that it's time for the Government to back up those words with action. It's time for a ban on snares.
If you'd like to join our call for a ban, please sign this petition. Thank you.