The wind was blowing hard across the moor, but at least the rain had stopped. Once again, I was staring at a line of wire snares on a grouse moor in Scotland, set to trap foxes, who will be killed when the snare operator arrives.

OneKind Director Bob Elliot looking at snare on grouse moor

Oddly though, the smell of dead fish pervaded the air. Sadly, finding snares was not a surprise. But why the stench of dead fish? After all, I was many miles from the coast.

A few days before, I had been sent an email from a supporter who had been out walking and was concerned to discover snares and traps on a local moor.

Site of Special Scientific Interest

I identified that the snaring site was on a protected area designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in an area of raised bog and heather moorland in the foothills of the Lammermuir Hills. Disappointingly, I could see signs of muirburn (heather burning in strips) on the satellite map. This burning is regularly undertaken by gamekeepers who are managing the land for grouse shooting - younger heather provides red grouse more nutritious young shoots as food. More red grouse for shooting equates higher profits. The shooting of these sentient beings is a business after all...

Aerial view of grouse moor showing burnt heather and quad bike tracks

Intensive grouse shooting industry

A few days later we arrived onsite to follow up on the information we had received. My previous career had involved many days of investigating wildlife crime on grouse moors, and I felt a strong sense of déjà vu that I had seen it all before. Sure enough, heather burnt in strips, signs of quad bike tyres eroding vital peat deposits, trays of medicated grit, crow cage and spring traps set to trap corvids and kill weasels and stoats, and because of all this, the depressing absence of predatory animals and birds. This is the reality of the intensive red grouse shooting industry.

Sure enough, we soon found several snares, likely set for foxes, and the question of the horrific fish smell was answered. The gamekeeper had placed a bucket of foul-smelling rotting fish onto the moor. Radiating from the bucket, or ‘stink pit’ as they can be called, narrow paths had been cut in the heather, and across the paths, wire snares had been set.

OneKind Director Bob Elliot looking at

The smell of the rotting fish attracts animals into the area, they walk along the narrow paths to be caught in the snares. Isn’t it depressing that these archaic and cruel practices are still legal in 2023?

Snares are such innocuous looking loops of wire. But placed across animal tracks or in gaps in vegetation, can cause immense physical and mental suffering to the animals trapped in them. People often remark, “but I thought they had been banned years ago.” But despite being under review by the Scottish Government, snares are currently still permitted in our countryside.

Body of dead fox which has been snared

Indiscriminate killers

It is bad enough that snares catch foxes, but they are indiscriminate and can catch and harm other animals, such as cats and dogs. All so the dreadful circle of killing can continue, ensuring the shooting parties can have live sentient targets to shoot, at the end of the year.

Scotland is one of the few countries in Europe where snares are used. It is crucial that the Scottish Government introduces a ban on the sale, use, and manufacture of these archaic devices.

It is time to consign snares to Scotland’s history books.

Long after we departed the area, the stench of rotten fish lingered in my nostrils, a distasteful reminder of the snares we had seen and the fate awaiting any animal who is lured into them.