It's hard to believe snares are still legal in the UK.
The League Against Cruel Sports have been campaigning for the banning of snaring for many years, and we expected that by now the ban would be in place. After all, since we started the campaign around 75% of the EU countries have completely banned them, but the UK, embarrassingly, have not done so yet.
Why? I have no doubt that the answer is that in no other country is there such a big shooting industry as in the UK, where most of the snaring takes place on shooting estates (as a DEFRA 2012 study showed). This industry has been systematically eliminating all the wildlife that can eat any of the birds they charge punters to shoot at, so they use snares to catch and kill foxes on their estates. And the shooting industry is a powerful lobby that the Government lets itself be influenced by.
Over the years the League has produced many reports to show evidence for all the reasons to ban snaring. We have also lobbied the devolved nations' politicians as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have advanced more in the political process to ban snaring than Westminster. However, we decided to produce a new report, as we realised that some of the questions politicians asked us were not entirely covered by the existing reports.
It was during my 2016 testimony before the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee of the Welsh Assembly, discussing the issue of snaring, when I realised that we needed to obtain more information about the alternatives to snaring, and the effects of the bans in other countries. So, we have produced the report "The Problems of Snaring in the UK, and its Alternatives" which shows again that there is plenty of evidence of snaring causing many significant animal welfare and conservation problems (due to their cruel and indiscriminate nature), but also addresses these two issues the politicians are particularly interested about.
Regarding the first issue, the report shows that snaring is not needed as there are many better alternatives, at least 11 (seven that should be promoted more). The following is a summary of the report's detailed table that ranks different methods of wildlife management (some of them already banned) in terms of efficiency, humaneness and how conservation-friendly they are. It clearly shows how snaring belongs to the worst methods possible section.
Encouraged are the seven control methods, which are rated highly in the three areas:
- Tree guards
- 'Novel' disturbances, such as lights or noises
- Guard animals
- Habitat management
- No control
- Exclusion fencing
Other methods which rate less highly in each area, but would potentially be acceptable in certain cases if they were properly regulated, are:
- Reproductive control
- Cage traps
- Flushing to guns with two dogs (exempt hunting)
Methods which are clearly inhumane:
- Hunting (pre 2004 ban, or current illegal hunting with full pack)
Of these, poison, gassing and hunting are officially banned. Snaring and ferreting are the exceptions.
Regarding the second issue, we contacted more than 200 NGOs and Government officials in all the 28 EU countries and most did not report anything that suggests that their snaring bans are not working, or are causing significant problems. We only received reports of poor enforcement from Bulgaria and Italy.
There is also evidence that any regulation that falls short of banning snaring, such as banning particular types of snaring and using snares under a voluntary code of practice, is insufficient to completely solve the animal welfare and conservation problems that snaring causes.
The Governments that have issued codes of practices giving the specifications of "humane" legal snares use the 1998 Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS) as a benchmark against which to evaluate the humaneness of snaring. However, these standards are very out of date as the indicators of welfare included are limited in scope and number. Improvements in the understanding of animal suffering, and the inclusion of the Five Freedoms in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, show that the assessment and acceptable standards for animal welfare have progressed far beyond the rudimentary indicators and standards in the AIHTS.
Therefore, this report is the last piece of evidence to continue supporting the notion that snaring should be banned everywhere in the world, and therefore that the Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish and Westminster governments should ban the use, manufacture, and trade of all types of snares.
We need to catch up with the rest of the world on this.