Podcast 02: Snares and trailing a new campaign

A short podcast by Charlie Moores about snares – recorded the day before he headed to London to listen to a pro-hunt and pro-shoot government ‘debate’ last year’s petition organised by Animal Aid that called for a ban on the use, sale, and manufacture of snares


“If you’re a certain age you may remember how snares were often depicted as home made devices, something a poacher in a TV programme might make from a bit of string to catch a rabbit for his dinner perhaps, Viewers never saw how the animal was killed once they ‘d been snared of course – that might have upset them as they sat down to eat a lamb’s kidneys or a pig’s thigh muscles – but snares themselves seemed relatively ‘harmless’, a bit ad hoc, and something that most of us probably assumed disappeared along with black and white televisions, red telephone boxes, fax machines, and the pick and mix at Woolworths

But snares haven’t disappeared. Far from it. They are actually being used on an industrial scale. They’re probably being used in a field or a wood near you right now…

And of course they’re not made from hazel twigs and string – they’re made from thin steel wire. Staved to the ground. Set very deliberately along runs or around what are called stink pits, animal carcasses piled high so the stench of rotting flesh draws more animals to more snares. They’re easy to use, light to carry, and quickly replaced if you can’t quite remember where you left them. They’re basically a cheap, simple, low-skilled way to kill or maim or injure wildlife. And having said all of that, bizarrely, they’re legal to use.

At least, legal in that sort of riddled with holes way that so much legislation to do with hunting and shooting is legal While the laws around snares and snaring look sound enough at first glance, they’re typically unenforceable, open to interpretations so wide you can barely see the sides, and governed by Codes of Practice – those odd little gifts like General licences that says to the shooting industry over drinks in the Members Bar, ‘This is what we’d like you to do, lads, but we know it’s tough when killing wildlife to remain within the law all the time, so we won’t insist but do your best eh. And to help you get on without too much bother from the masses, how about we fiddle a little bit with the design and sell these things as a ‘restraint device’ rather than a ‘killing device’? How about we say something like snares must not be set where the animal might hang itself or become entangled[ must never be placed on or near to an active badger sett or where livestock could be caught. blah blah blah …no-ones going to check, we’ll just let you get on with it – just maybe don’t take the piss so much that the public gets uppity…Oh and by the way, here’s a good one we thought up the other day, how about we say that snares must be inspected at least once every day for ‘welfare considerations’. That’ll really needle the antis eh…’

In reality of course, shooting absolutely does take the piss and snares are certainly not the ‘kindly, animal friendly uncle’ of the trap world that industry lobbyists would like us to believe. Wild animals – whether predator or prey – don’t behave passively under stressful conditions. Frightened, trapped animals will always try to escape. The internet is awash with images showing animals that have been almost cut in half by snares, that have died wrapped up in them, that – rather than sit and pass the time of day reflecting on how nice it is not to run around for a change – have tried to gnaw off their own limbs to escape them.

In any case, the question shouldn’t be are these things animal-friendly – they’re used to kill animals, clearly they’re not – but why are snares still legal in the UK?

Why? Because snares are largely used by gamekeepers. On shooting estates. Yes, farmers use some, but the shooting industry uses huge numbers of snares to kill huge numbers of wild animals – mostly foxes, the shooting industry really hates foxes – and all so that huge numbers of other animals like pheasants or grouse can be blasted out of the sky for fun.

And because government after government has decided that putting holes into live animals is a legitimate practice, and because estate-owners tend to be rich and influential, snaring has been allowed when common sense and any understanding at all of how animals suffer in snares would tell you they should be banned.

And it’s also why the ‘debate’ in parliament will be nothing of the sort – which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep on trying of course…

Which brings me to this: despite setting thousands of snares every month, the shooting industry doesn’t have to publish data of how many animals they kill. Is it thousands? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? We’d love be able to tell you, but we just don’t know. Nobody does.

How ridiculous is that. We live in one the most nature-depleted countries on the planet, our biodiversity is crashing, our climate is changing which is impacting animal populations at every level, but the shooting industry just gets to carry on trapping and snaring without being required to let us know just how many animals and of what species it’s killing

In Scotland, under what’s known as the WANE Act, snare ‘operators’ (a grand term for someone chucking out nooses to kill wildlife) are at least required to keep a record of what they kill. But where does that information end up? With the police. But – and going back to that ‘legislation with holes’ concept, only if the police actually ask for it. How often is that done? How long is the data stored? How accessible is it? What happens to the ‘operator’ if the records aren’t passed to the police when requested? That’s not made clear in the legislation – but given that wildlife crime is usually bottom of the list for most police forces, and the legislation around snaring so unenforceable anyway – well, you can draw your own conclusions…

In England – well, in England there’s no requirement to keep records at all.

That’s really not good enough is it? It’s actually biologically illiterate to just keep taking predators out of an environment like that. No, if you want to keep using snares to kill wild animals you should have a responsibility to keep detailed records of how many you’re killing, and you should be submitting those records to a national database that anyone can access so that we can all know how many are being killed.

We think that’s such an obvious requirement that once the government confirms in the debate they’re going to do absolutely nothing about snares we’re going to start a campaign demanding that if they’re going to keep them – and we’d much rather they didn’t of course – that they should force the users to tell us all how many animals they’re killing and where they’re killing them. That should be mandatory, No excuses, no ‘we didn’t have time’ or ‘our gamekeeper had to go the dentist that week’ – the information must be public, updated every week, and accessible to everyone who wants to see it.”