Snares - Time for a Ban
1.7 million animals fall victim to snares every year
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.
Although most people in the UK think this archaic form of trapping was outlawed decades ago, it is still legal to use free-running snares in all of the UK. Most are used on shooting estates to kill foxes – so that the foxes don’t kill the game birds that will then be shot by paying customers. But the nature of a snare means that it is not just foxes that are caught.
Using government figures, it is estimated that around 1.7m wild and domestic animals are trapped in snares every year. Find out more in our report "Snares: Time for a Ban".
That’s one every 20 seconds.
The primitive design of a snare means it silently garrottes its victims, and often leads to a painful and lingering death. Even if the snare doesn’t kill the animal, they may still die at the hands of a predator, dehydration or exposure to the elements.
The UK is one of only five countries in Europe where snares are still legal. It is time for a complete ban on the manufacture, importation, sale and use of snares to end the suffering of the huge number of animals caught in them every year.
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Snares are cruel
“I am completely convinced that trapping and snaring are hideously cruel” Former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson MP.
Although their purpose is to immobilise predators, most snares cause extreme suffering to animals and often a painful, lingering death.
Animals caught in a snare suffer terrible stress and can sustain horrific injuries. In their desperate bid to escape, they can be disembowelled by the wire, wrench bones out of sockets and even chew through their own limbs
Legal snares (known as free-running snares) are not intended to kill immediately, so animals can be trapped and left suffering for hours, even days, before whoever set the trap returns to put them out of their misery.
Most British people want snares banned. A 2014 poll conducted by Ipsos MORI found 77% of the British public think snares should be illegal with 68% of MPs also supporting a ban on snares according to a 2015 Dods poll.
Why are snares used?
“Some pest control methods have such extreme effects on an animal’s welfare that, regardless of the potential benefits, their use is never justified. Snaring is such a method.” Centre for Animal Welfare, University of Cambridge, 2010 report on the impacts of snaring.
Snares are used mainly on shooting estates to protect game birds, like pheasants, partridge and grouse, reared for shooting. Thousands of animals are wiped out every day to protect shooting interests.
Defra's report found that only 5% of landholdings in England & Wales use snares, and the use of both fox and rabbit snares was far more likely on landholdings with game bird shooting.
In the main, snares are not used by people trying to catch food. They are used to protect birds which will then be shot.
Snares – the ‘landmines of the countryside
Like landmines, snares are indiscriminate.
The number and diversity of animals that fall victim to snares is immense – Defra’s own studies suggest around 1.7m animals caught each year.
Moreover, because snares capture any animal that happens to step into them, little more than a quarter of the animals trapped in Defra’s studies were foxes – the intended victims. The other three quarters included hares (33% of all captures), badgers (26%) and a further 14% described only as ‘other’. Media reports and public testimony show that the ‘other’ species regularly caught in snares include cats, dogs, deer and even otters.
Snaring is legal – in the UK
Snaring is uncommon in the rest of Europe. Britain is one of only five EU countries where snares are still completely legal, along with France, Belgium, Ireland and Latvia.
It is legal to set free-running neck snares to catch foxes and rabbits in all of the UK. Free-running snares are intended to hold the trapped animal alive until the snare operator returns and kills it. Self-locking snares, where the wire tightens as the trapped animal struggles but does not relax when the struggling stops, are illegal in all of the UK; however, free-running snares can easily become self-locking when kinked or rusty.
Code of (Mal)Practice
No amount of regulation can reduce the suffering snares inflict - nor increase their specificity - to an acceptable level. Defra's 2012 report found that 95% of gamekeepers using snares were aware of the voluntary Code of Practice (COP), yet not a single fox snare operator visited as part of their report was fully compliant with the CoP, seven years after it came into effect.
League Against Cruel Sports video evidence corroborates Defra's findings. Several violations of the CoP were recorded including setting snares along a fence line, setting them in bad weather and not moving or removing a snare from a location where an animal was found dead in it.
It is simply impossible to enforce regulations for a practice that occurs primarily on private land in remote locations.
Claiming snaring can be regulated is a COP-out
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