Animal suffering guaranteed if Stormont ignores anti-snare evidence

Tuesday 8th November 2016: Harrowing snared hare footage highlights why these lethal traps must be banned, declares animal welfare charity.

Thousands of animals, from foxes, hares and badgers to pet dogs and cats, will remain in danger of gruesome, drawn-out deaths as the Northern Ireland government’s Committee for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) looks set to push ahead with legislation when it meets on Thursday 10th November.

Just 12 months ago, the previous Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, withdrew the Snares Order after an overwhelming outcry from the people of N. Ireland demanded that cruel snares should be banned. However, despite this and independent research showing that three out of four people in Northern Ireland want snares to be made illegal(1), the new DAERA Minister appears determined to simply regulate these lethal wire nooses, instead of banning them.

But animal welfare group the League Against Cruel Sports’ believes this is a cop-out and that no amount of regulation will stop the indiscriminate suffering and drawn out deaths of animals caught in these archaic, indiscriminate traps, as a video of its recent investigation into snares in Northern Ireland graphically illustrates.

Janice Watt, NI Senior Public Affairs Officer for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “If you put a wire noose out in a field, animals will suffer.

“Snares are crude wire nooses that are used to trap animals. Meant to simply restrain the target animal (usually foxes), these nooses are indiscriminate and strangle, maim or kill any animal unfortunate enough to get caught.

“This box ticking exercise will not stop wildlife and pets being maimed, or prevent agonising drawn-out deaths from snares. The reality is that snares are indiscriminate, inefficient and prone to misuse.

“According to Government figures, up to 75% of the animals trapped are non-target species, meaning badgers, hares, otters, and even family pets such as cats and dogs – basically ANY passing animal. It’s simply not acceptable to permit the continued use of such barbaric devices whenever humane and efficient methods are widely available(2).

“The government is pretending that snaring regulations will improve animal welfare. The opposite is true. You can’t regulate cruelty. Only a complete ban on snares will put an end to the suffering.”

The UK is one of only five countries in Europe where snares are still used. They are set mainly by gamekeepers on shooting estates to maintain artificially high stocks of 'game' birds so they can be shot later for ‘sport’.

A UK government report in 2012 into their snaring Code of Practice showed that not a single fox snare operator visited was fully compliant with the Code – a full seven years after it had been introduced. Furthermore, a shooting industry study revealed that less than half of the gamekeepers involved had even read it.

Numerous investigations by the League Against Cruel Sports have documented the suffering caused by legal free-running snares, including:

  • Animals found with the wire cutting through to the bone
  • Snares almost cutting animals in half
  • Many animals found dead in snares meant to simply restrain them – most died of strangulation but others from predation, exposure to the elements or dehydration

“With the twisted logic of the bloodsports world, snares are used mainly by gamekeepers to kill foxes, to stop them killing the 'game' birds that are destined to be killed later for ‘sport,” said Ms Watt. “Lethal predator control is not effective – you might kill one fox, but another will fill the space within four days. Whether you are protecting 'game' birds, poultry or livestock, humane alternatives are more effective.”

Farmers also claim they need to use snares to stop foxes catching lambs. But research in Scotland has shown that less than 1% of lamb losses are attributable to foxes.

Ms Watts concluded: “It will be shameful if Northern Ireland doesn’t seize this opportunity to ban snares.

“The Assembly has led the way on animal welfare, having increased sentences for animal cruelty to up to 5 years. And recently, Belfast City Council unanimously passed a motion requesting the Northern Ireland Assembly to prioritise introducing legislation to completely ban snares in NI.

“Three out of four people in Northern Ireland think snares should be banned. The UK is one of only five European countries where the use of these snares is legal.

"Northern Ireland has the opportunity to be the UK leader on wild animal welfare by banning these incredibly cruel and completely indiscriminate traps.

"Please do not let the shooting industry’s profits override animal welfare and democracy.”

Veterinary opinion is also firmly in support of a ban on these cruel and indiscriminate traps. A 2015 poll of veterinary surgeons and vet nurses across the UK found that 87% of respondents believe snaring is not a humane method of pest control, and it was even higher amongst those who had experience of treating snared animals (92%). Moreover, 82% of respondents were in favour of a government ban on snaring, and again this was higher amongst those with experience of snared animals (85%).

A report on the impacts of snaring by the Centre of Animal Welfare at Cambridge University said: “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.” (3)

- Ends -


  1. Ipsos MORI poll, August 2015.
  2. University of Bristol research for League snare report 2016: “Cruel & Indiscriminate: why Scotland must become snare-free”, Page 12
  3. Rochlitz I, Pearce G P, Broom DM The Impact of Snares on Animal Welfare, Centre for Animal Welfare and Anthrozoölogy, Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge for Chapter 1 OneKind Snaring Report

League Against Cruel Sports is a registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (SC045533) that brings together people who care about animals. Like the majority of the public, we believe that cruelty to animals in the name of sport has no place in modern society. 

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