On Wednesday the Rural Affairs and Islands committee will hold their second evidence session on the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill.

This is the Bill that will introduce licensing of grouse shooting and some trap use, a ban on glue traps, and could potentially bring a ban on snares (the Scottish Government will bring in a provision at stage two of the Bill, we are waiting to hear what it will be and will post a blog updating you on this situation soon).

Considerations for caged crows

Crow caught in cage trap

While we agree that the proposed licensing of some traps is better than nothing, we think more needs to be done to bring protections for wild animals.

In particular, we hope to convince policy makers that the use of cage traps for members of the crow family (corvids) should end, or at least the most harmful elements of it. You can see more details about these traps in our Untold Suffering report.

These traps can lead to physical harms, such as injury or exposure, but the main harms are psychological. Being suddenly confined must be terrifying. The smaller traps on the ground, where birds can barely move and cannot perch higher up, must make birds feel especially vulnerable. Unsurprisingly, birds in these traps spend a lot of time trying to escape. As territorial birds, there is also a lot of aggression between birds caught in the same trap.

Magpies caught in cage trap

Even worse is the use of ‘decoy’ birds, who are used to lure in others to the trap. They are usually wild-caught themselves initially, and may be kept for weeks or months and used repeatedly in this way. There is a legal requirement to provide them with food, water, shelter, and a perch, but sometimes these are provided in a way that wild birds won’t feel comfortable using, such as a bottle for water (like those used for companion rabbits) or a small shelter low down.

They are subject to the stress of confinement and aggression from other birds. They may have their wings clipped so that they can’t fly, limiting their movement even further.

Crow caught in cage trap

The death experienced by birds caught in these traps is uncertain – as they are manually killed by the person who finds them, whether or not that killing is humane depends on the competence of the person. Even if the death is quick the handling just before it is highly stressful.

Evidence session

At the end of May the committee took evidence from the Scottish Government wildlife team, probing the intentions behind that Bill and how they anticipate it will work. The next evidence session on Wednesday morning will include evidence from the team who previously conducted a review of grouse moors, leading to this Bill, and then a second panel will discuss the sections of the Bill dealing with traps and Scottish SPCA powers.

On this second panel is Mike Flynn from Scottish SPCA and Libby Anderson from the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission, along with others representing wildlife management and gamekeepers.

We have briefed committee members of our concerns around corvid traps and hope these issues will be discussed in this evidence session. We will be live tweeting to let you know how the session goes.

What could change?

While we would like to see an end to the use of these traps entirely, until that is achieved, we must try to limit the harm caused to these birds. The Bill could do that. It introduces licensing of these traps, overseen by NatureScot, and includes a requirement to attend training.

We think that the training should include input from independent animal welfare experts and focus on the psychological experience of trapped birds as well as physical impacts. The application process should ensure that other measures have been tried first, and licence conditions could include limitations such as no use of decoy birds or requirement to check traps more frequently .

We have been lobbying for a commitment to such protections and will continue to do so as the Bill progresses through Parliament.