Why it’s time for a ban on snares


What are snares?

A snare is a thin wire noose set to trap animals which some people view as being a pest or threat, usually foxes and rabbits. They are intended to catch the animals around the neck like a lasso.

Many people are surprised that this archaic form of trapping is still allowed, believing it was outlawed decades ago. But it is still legal to use a certain type of snare in the UK.

A snare in Exmoor ready to be used


Injury and death - why snares are so cruel

The modern legal snare is meant to tighten around an animal and hold it quietly until the gamekeeper comes to kill it. But the reality is shocking. In their desperate struggle to escape, animals may be strangled, or may suffer horrible and sometimes life-threatening injuries, or a 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 League Against Cruel Sports is doing everything it can to protect animals from snares, as in the UK they are mainly set up by shooting states to eliminate animals that predate on game birds, and therefore this is a subject linked to cruel sports.


How many animals are caught in snares?

Like landmines, snares are indiscriminate, because these wire traps can’t tell the difference between a fox, your family pet or a protected species.

As a result, the amount and diversity of animals that fall victim to these snare traps is immense. Snares capture any animal that happens to step into them. In 2012 a UK government study found that only around a quarter of the animals trapped in snares were the intended targets (normally foxes). The remaining three quarters of the animals caught, severely injured or killed in these vicious nooses included hares, badgers, family cats and dogs, deer and even otters.

Based on the government’s 2012 research, we estimate that snares may be trapping up to 1,700,000 animals every year.


Spencer loses a leg

Spencer the lurcher was caught in a snare while walking in Coldharbour, Surrey. His owner said:

Spencer, the greyhound losta leg in a snare, with his owner

I kept walking and I saw Spencer trying to come towards me and then I saw a red stick that was his leg. His skin had been completely ripped off. His muscle was hanging off and you could see the veins and tendons. I just started screaming. It was such a horrible sight.

Spencer spent a week at the vets before a specialist decided his leg had to be amputated.


Who uses snares?

These days, snares are set mainly by game-keepers on commercial shooting estates to stop foxes from catching the game birds, It’s ironic that these snares kill so many different animals, just so that the pheasants, partridges and grouse can be protected till they are shot down later for ‘sport’. Snares are seldom used by people to catch their own food.

So many of the UK’s precious wild animals are being wiped out to protect the profits of private shooting interests. We believe that this is absolutely not a valid justification for causing such cruelty and suffering.


Are snares legal in the UK?

Yes – we’re completely out of step with most European countries.

Britain is one of only five European countries where snares are still used. Most countries in this part of the world recognise that these devices have no place in modern society and if necessary, they use alternatives.

Here in the UK, it is still legal to set ‘free-running’ neck snares to catch foxes and rabbits. These types of snares are supposed to hold the trapped animal alive until the snare operator returns and kills it. But they can become kinked or rusty – and lethal. The animals’ panicked struggles just exacerbate the potential for terrible injuries and death. Legal snares can also be set in the wrong way or the wrong place, increasing their potential to cause more suffering and catch non-targeted animals. And illegal snares are designed to kill all the animals they catch are still in use.


Why a snaring Code of Practice will never work

The Government believes that snare use can be controlled by a Code of Practice by providing guidelines on their use, including how and where to set them and how to avoid injury to the animals.

But its own research shows that no amount of regulation can reduce the suffering snares inflict - or the number or variety of animals caught in these lethal traps.

In the Government’s own 2012 report into snaring, not a single fox snare operator visited was fully compliant with the Code of Practice that was valid at that time, a full seven years after it was introduced. Furthermore, a study by the shooting industry itself revealed that less than half of the gamekeepers involved had even read the Code. Although there are now new codes of best pactice in Scotland, England and Wales, none of them are likely to prevent non-target animals from being caught, or to eliminate suffering to acceptable levels, even if they are fully complied with. It is simply impossible to enforce regulations for a practice that occurs primarily on private land in remote locations. Claiming snaring can be properly regulated to avoid unnecessary suffering and to address the conservation concerns they create, is a cop-out .

Hare trapped in a snare in Northern Ireland


How can we change the law on snaring?

The League will continue to campaign for a ban on snares in all the countries of the UK, because, like most of the people in the country, we passionately believe that snares are cruel and cannot be merely regulated. A total ban will make enforcement far easier and should not cause any significant problem as there are many alternatives to snaring.

Most British people want snares banned.

  • 77% of the British public think snares should be illegal (Ipsos MORI, 2014)
  • 68% of MPs also support a ban on snares (Dods poll, 2015)

We believe that as we continue our education programme and more and more people understand what snares really are and the damage they do, these numbers will continue to increase.

In England, MPs debated snaring in the House of Commons in July 2016, and voted for a ban. However, the government ignored the vote and instead have pushed ahead with a new Code of Practice – which was drawn up by the shooting industry, the very people who use snares the most.

We are also working hard to seek bans on snares in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
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.


How can I help ban snaring?

  • Sign our petition to ban snares
  • Join one of our supporter groups to help us raise awareness that snares are still being used
  • Share this page on your social media


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