The sheer terror of choking to death is something we can all imagine, but hopefully none of us will ever experience. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for many of the 1.7m wild and domestic animals that fall victim to a silent killer in the countryside each year.
Imagine a loop of wire, just like a noose, fixed to a stick in the ground. This is a snare. The sole aim of a snare is to tighten once something goes through the loop, and it does that very well. The snare doesn't care what it catches. The snare's operator may have planned to catch a fox, or a rabbit, but the snare doesn't care. Hares, badgers, otters, deer, these are the unsuspecting victims which find themselves trapped. If you're a pet lover, worse news - dogs and cats will also be caught, because the snare doesn't care.
The result of being caught in a snare may be different each time, but the general theme is the same. Depending on the exact position of the snare, an animal may be caught around the throat, or perhaps around the abdomen or leg. The first of these sounds most likely to be fatal and fast - though choking to death as you struggle to escape, clawing at the wire, ripping fur and teeth is going to be horrific.
The other options are not much better, however. Being caught around the abdomen allows you to struggle and pull, again using claws and teeth until the wire tightens so much that it begins to squeeze the breath from your lungs. Slow suffocation follows.
Around the leg? Is this any better? Being immobilised means you are at the mercy of whatever, or whoever, comes along, be it a predator or the person who set the snare. Either way, it's not going to end well.
The time has probably come to ask 'why?' Many people we talk to about snares assume that these lethal traps were banned years ago. Unfortunately not.
Snares have been around for thousands of years, primarily to catch food, but that is generally not the purpose for which they are used now. The vast majority of snares in the UK are set around shooting estates. These are the places where people go to have a day's fun blasting birds out of the sky, and the owners don't like it if pesky foxes come along and kill the birds before they, themselves, have the chance to kill them.
Shooting estates are literally surrounded by snares. League Against Cruel Sports Vice President Bill Oddie visited a grouse moor in Scotland and counted 100 snares in a small area. They were set around a 'stink pit', which is a pile of rotting flesh designed to attract animals like foxes. There is no way through to the stink pit other than through the line of snares. The perfect kill zone.
Our League investigators took a look at a shooting estate in Northern Ireland just last month. They found snares, and they found skulls and bones of animals that had perished within them. Dramatically, they found a live hare trapped in a snare. Terrified into immobility, the hare allowed our investigators to release it and rush it to a vet. The snare had caught it around the abdomen leaving a deep gash, and ripped the fur from its legs. Despite a brave attempt to save it and a brief rally from the hare, it died two days later.
This is happening on an industrial scale - the government investigated snares in 2012 and did several tests. From these we know how many snares are in use at any one time, and roughly how many animals are caught in them. It equates to about one every 20 seconds. If you've taken two minutes to read this article, somewhere on these islands six animals are now writhing in pain.
Snaring is a by-product of the shooting industry. Don't get me started, but even if you're not opposed to shooting, I wonder if you can see our point about snares. There is no way anyone can justify to me this level of cruelty to 1.7m foxes, rabbits, badgers, hares, deer, otters, cats and dogs each year just so people can shoot birds from the sky for fun.
If shooting estates really feel they have to protect their birds, then there are non-lethal methods available. Seriously, get a fence.
But if we claim to be a country that cherishes animals, then snaring has to stop. Now.
The League Against Cruel Sports has launched a new campaign to that end because we feel the time is right. We know that around 80 MPs in Westminster have said they would ban snares. Anti-snare feeling is also growing in Cardiff, Stormont and Holyrood. This feeling is across party lines. No political ideology surely can support the brutal killing of huge numbers of animals simply to support a 'leisure activity'.
The UK is one of only five countries in Europe where snaring is still legal. If you're as appalled by that as I am, please help us persuade our governments to ban them. You can sign our petition and find out more at www.league.org.uk/snares.
If you're still not convinced that snaring is horrific, I dare you to watch our new campaign video 'Silent Enemy'. Personally, it kept me awake at night.
I'm asking you to care. Because snares don't.
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