A Scottish Parliament Committee has approved gamekeeping organisations to train people in the use of snares.
The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee today (20 June 2012) agreed the Snares (Training) (Scotland) (No 2) Order 2012, which allows the gamekeeping industry and four Scottish colleges to deliver training on the use of snares in Scotland.
OneKind has long campaigned, along with the League Against Cruel Sports and other animal protection organisations, for an outright ban on the use of snares in Scotland. Polling in 2010 showed that 77% of the Scottish public supported a ban on these cruel and indiscriminate traps.
The most recent research into the use of snares in the UK, published by DEFRA in March 2012, included field trials carried out under “best practice” conditions at least equivalent to the conditions now required by law in Scotland.
Pen and field trials demonstrated that captured animals suffered a range of injuries including subcutaneous oedema and muscle haemorrhage. Necropsies on rabbits found dead in a field trial of snares found signs of asphyxia during strangulation, a remarkably inhumane way to kill an animal, and hares were found to have been predated while held in snares. There was also a high rate of non-target captures, amounting to 68% in one of the field trials. These results are entirely consistent with previous research.
The Scottish Parliament decided last year that it would not ban snares, but would regulate them more strictly instead. As part of this regime, from 1 January 2013 anyone who wants to set a snare must attach a tag to it showing an individual identification number. In order to receive the number, operators must undergo the training course.
Bodies proposed for approval to deliver training under the Order
- the Scottish Gamekeepers Association Charitable Trust
- the British Association for Shooting and Conservation Scotland
- the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust
- the Scottish Association for Country Sports
- Borders College
- Elmwood College
- North Highland College
- Scottish Agricultural College.
Snaring training courses have been delivered by the first three of these bodies since 2010.
Successful completion of the snaring training course is supposed to show that the applicant has sufficient knowledge and experience to use snares responsibly and within the legislative requirements. This is supposed to raise the standard of operation of snaring activities across Scotland to improve the welfare of animals caught in snares.
Despite these aims OneKind believes that some courses have been delivered more with an eye to teaching participants how to avoid prosecution and interference by so-called “antis” rather than proactively achieving better welfare.
We have doubts that a short course (only two hours) with no veterinary or technical welfare component can address the welfare issues properly. Participants are not given clear advice about the nature of injuries that a snared animal may suffer, nor about mental distress and terror. Instead, they are assured that if they set snares in accordance with the legislation, injuries are unlikely to occur. Participants are left to judge for themselves whether they should kill or release injured non-target animals, or call a vet.
Participants have been advised that it would be acceptable to release a badger caught round the front leg, even if bleeding, on the basis that it would “heal itself”. The course is intended to cover fox and rabbit snaring, but participants have also been advised that feral cats are legitimate targets of snares.
The Impact Assessment for the Order refers to the Scottish SPCA having input to the snaring training course. In 2010, the Scottish SPCA reviewed the content and confirmed that it appeared to comply with the law. Other than that, the Scottish SPCA has confirmed to us that it has had no input to the snaring course.
Without providing guidance as to the content or standard of the course, or detail as to how industry training should protect the welfare of animals trapped in snares, we fail to see how the new Order can address animal welfare in any meaningful way.