Scotland: Shooting industry fails to bully politicians over snares

It’s welcome news that the Scottish government has announced that it will push ahead with a change in the law that would fully ban snares. As we previously reported, the shooting industry had been lobbying hard so that it could continue using the torture devices.

Gamekeepers and landowners had been trying to influence legislation in Scotland’s proposed Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill. They had been urging politicians to make it legal for them to use ‘humane cable restraints’ (HCRs). But there is nothing ‘humane’ about so-called humane cable restraints. In fact, they’re just the same old snares being marketed as something else.

150 land managers, under the banner of Scottish Land and Estates, had signed a letter to the Scottish government, arguing their usual fictitious tale that HCRs are “vital in protecting livestock and ground-nesting birds” (which of course include the millions of pheasants, partridges, and grouse the industry sells to be shot). Gamekeepers and landowners had been lobbying for a licensing scheme to allow them to continue using snares.

However, the Scottish Government recently published the results of a consultation on snares and Scottish SPCA powers. It revealed that the majority of Scots (70%) were in support of the proposed snaring ban and more than 70% were opposed to exceptions for ‘research’ or other reasons.



Scottish government won’t be bullied

Despite industry pressure (including a legal threat from lobbying organisation BASC, the British Association of Shooting and Conservation), the Scottish government has proved once again that it won’t be bullied by those who get their kicks out of terrorising wildlife.

Environment Minister Gillian Martin stated that the government will legislate for a blanket ban on all snares, and won’t be issuing a licensing scheme. She announced:

“The evidence I have seen demonstrates that the use of any kind of snare has unacceptable risks to animal welfare of both target and non-target species and that there are more humane alternative methods available.”

Her announcement came after the government launched a consultation, asking the public their opinion on the ban on snares. A massive 70% of respondents supported a blanket ban, and did not support any kind of licensing for HCRs. The government summarised that:

“Respondents…stated that HCRs do nothing to reduce other harms to trapped animals, including fear, exposure to the elements, starvation and thirst, predation risk and self-injury caused by attempts to escape.”

In response to Martin’s announcement, the shooting industry threw a tantrum, calling the Scottish government’s announcement a “dark day for biodiversity, wildlife and rural livelihoods”. Scottish Land and Estates’ Ross Ewing moaned:

“Anger and disappointment will reverberate through Scotland’s land management community on the back of this decision. In less than a year, the Scottish Government has taken steps to systematically decimate the toolkit for fox control – first by curtailing the ability to use dogs to flush foxes; and now bringing forward an outright ban on the use of snares and HCRs.

To do so at a time where biodiversity is hanging in the balance is unconscionable, and it is Scotland’s most threatened, iconic species that will suffer as a result.”

Of course, Ewing didn’t mention the fact that Scotland’s biodiversity has been severely impacted by the very land managers he is representing.They release millions of non-native Eurasian pheasants into the countryside, wrecking the ecosystem and keeping the fox population high by giving it an abundance of easy prey. Nor did he mention the fact that a number of Scotland’s landowners are burning the country’s peat bogs, and are responsible for 13% of Scotland’s carbon emissions. Their aim? To encourage the growth of new heather to keep Red Grouse population unnaturally high, all in the name of shooting the poor birds for profit.

Meanwhile, the Countryside Alliance was also predictably outraged by the Scottish government. The organisation’s Jake Swindells used the lobbying group’s usual curlew argument in an attempt to pull some heartstrings and change the narrative. He said:

“Today’s decision is nothing but an affront to the rural community and poses a serious threat to biodiversity and conservation…

By continuing to remove vital tools required to carry out fox control, the Scottish Government is condemning threatened species like the curlew and capercaillie to continued decline and possible extinction.”

Scotland’s announcement that it is going to ban all snares is a relief for animal welfare campaigners, and it will save countless mammals’ lives.

Bob Elliot, Director of Scottish animal charity OneKind which has campaigned against the use of snares in Scotland for many years, said in response:

“I am so very pleased to see that the Scottish Government agrees that the serious animal welfare issues related to the use of wire snares means a complete ban is needed. 

To all those companion animals and wild animals who have suffered in snares over the years, this is for you.”


England’s government should be ashamed

It is commendable that neither Scotland nor Wales have bowed under pressure from powerful industry lobbyists. Wales has already banned all snare use: its new law came into force on 17 October. England’s Tory politicians, meanwhile, unsurprisingly show no sign of introducing similar legislation. The most the government has done was to send a contingent of pro-shoot MPs to debate for the continued use of snares in response to Animal Aid’s e-petition 600593, which called for a ban and gathered 102,616 signatures.

Scotland previously showed that it was taking animal welfare seriously when it introduced its law against hunting with dogs back in January 2023. Unlike England and Wales’s Hunting Act, Scottish legislation ensures that no loopholes can be exploited, and so fox hunting is, effectively, banned.

Protect the Wild has commissioned similar legislation for politicians to consider in England and Wales. The proposed law, written with Advocates for Animals and named the Hunting of Mammals Bill, would protect foxes, stags, hares and mink from hunters for good.


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