Animal Snares September 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently about snares [and the related League Against Cruel Sports campaign]. I believe we have a moral duty to treat animals in a humane and compassionate way and I share your concern about the use of snares, which I believe are inhumane and can cause extreme suffering to animals and often a painful, lingering death. I therefore agree with you that the Government should implement a ban.

There was a Backbench Business debate in the House of Commons on this issue on 21 July 2016 which called on the Government to implement a full ban on the manufacture, sale, possession and use of snares at the earliest opportunity. The Government concluded by saying that the current Code of Practice on snaring will soon be revised.

In 2008, the previous Labour Government commissioned research to determine how often snares are used in England and Wales and the level of suffering they inflict upon the animals snared. This research, which was finally published by the Coalition Government in 2012, recommended increased education for those who use snares, improving the uptake of the Code of Practice on snaring and encouraging the use of Code compliant snares.

During the recent debate, the Government confirmed that land management organisations and gamekeeping associations have developed a new code of best practice on the use of snares for fox control in England, which would also be suitable for rabbits. The new code has yet to be published but the Government has said it will be published soon and the Government believes it will build on the previous code of practice issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and have more success in promoting good practice on the use of snares. The Government has also stated its view that the new code of practice should be given a chance to come into effect before it will consider further regulation.

It is clear that the current voluntary code is not working and existing legislation is not being properly enforced. Research shows that only 25% of animals caught in snares are target animals, meaning 75% are not. Snares are therefore indiscriminate and inhumane.

Snares that leave the manufacturers as 'free-running' often become twisted, rusty or get stuck, causing harm or death to animals. There are several alternatives to snares that can be used, which evidence suggests can be incredibly effective. For example, electronic fencing can be used for foxes, as can fencing set deep into the ground so that animals cannot burrow under it. Fencing is also recommended for protection from rabbits. In addition, scare devices can be used, and if they are moved around, it can stop habituation so animals continue to be scared off by them. Other alternatives include chemical repellents and cage trapping, which mean animals can be released unharmed instead of injured.

I believe the evidence is now weighty in favour of a complete ban and that the current Government should therefore bring forward legislation to ban snares. The Official Opposition is carrying out further policy work in this area. Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views. I can assure you that I and my Shadow Frontbench colleagues will press the Government to bring in a ban.