Snares: Indiscriminate and terribly cruel

Animal Aid is campaigning for a ban on the manufacture, sale, possession and use of snares.

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What is a snare and what are they for?

A snare is a thin, wire noose. They are ‘set’ by people, with the aim that they will catch certain animals – foxes and rabbits – by the leg or the neck. The snare setter wishes to ‘control’ these wild animals, usually because they think the animal will damage their crops or the animals they are producing, and so they want to kill the ‘pests’.

Are snares good at what they are designed to do – catching rabbits and foxes?

No, and this is not just Animal Aid’s opinion – Defra’s own figures stated, in 2012 that almost 70% of animals caught in snares were non-target. This could, and has, included badgers, pet dogs, pet cats, sheep and lambs.

Are they designed to kill the animal?

No, the sole purpose of the snare is to trap the animal until the person who set the snare returns. They should then either release the animal – if they are not of the ‘target’ species and the animal is unharmed or if the animal is a target species, they will ‘dispatch’ (kill) them.

Do snares cause injury to animals?

There are two types – one is illegal. The other is legal, but can easily fail to work properly.

If you think about it, when a wild animal is walking and becomes caught in anything, it will struggle and try to get free. Being trapped in a wire noose, the wire can cut into the animal’s flesh, and depending on how long they are trapped and how much they struggle, the snare can cut into, and damage, muscle, deeper tissues and bone. Animals have even been known to try to chew off their own limbs to escape. Their pain and distress is unimaginable.

Even if an animal ‘freezes’ immobile and does not move once it is caught, this is not necessarily good. There is a condition called ‘tonic immobility’ which happens when animals are extremely stressed. This condition has been described in humans who have been attacked.

If the animal is found quickly and released straight away, surely that is OK?

Sadly, evidence shows that snares can be set and then not checked for days, if ever. Snares are supposed to be checked at least once a day.  Animals have been found, dead or dying, in snares and the evidence is that they have been there for more than 24 hours. This can lead animals to die of thirst, starvation, be eaten by predators, unable to escape or die of exposure. All of these are unacceptably prolonged, inhumane and terrible ways to die. It is also possible that lactating mothers can be caught, which means their babies would die of starvation, without her.

In addition to the fact that snares can be overlooked, forgotten, and a myriad of other reasons why they might not be regularly checked, it is extremely difficult to assess the health and welfare of an extremely stressed and frightened wild animal. It is possible that the animal could have internal injuries, may have broken their teeth trying to escape – making feeding or catching prey difficult, if not impossible. This is really only an assessment that can be made by a veterinary surgeon. It is therefore possible that fatally injured animals can be released to die a slow death.

There is also a condition called ‘exertional myopathy’ whereby animals can become so panicked and exert themselves so much that they can die days or even weeks after being released. This is an unacceptable way to treat wild animals.

Why haven’t snares been banned?

A very good question! You’d think in this day and age such archaic and barbaric devices would be illegal, sadly they are not.

In July 2016, there was a parliamentary debate on a motion to ban snares. The motion was agreed to without a vote, which means  that Parliament supports a full ban on the manufacture, sale, possession and use of snares. Unfortunately, rather than ban these terrible devices, a Code of Practice was introduced.

What sort of thing does the Code of Practice state?

It states that snares should never be set:

  • Under or near fences or other obstructions, like saplings, hedges, walls or gates that could cause entanglement.
  • Where livestock could be caught.
  • On or near to an active badger sett, or on the runs radiating from it.
  • In such a way that the restrained animal could become fully or partially suspended, entangled, drowned or strangled.
  • If forecasted weather conditions are likely to cause poor welfare or prevent daily inspection. Excess heat as well as cold/wind/rain/snow, etc. must be considered.

As our video shows, the Code of Practice is a failure. Animals are dying terribly protracted and gruesome deaths.

Does adhering to the Code of Practice make the use of snares acceptable?

No. The only solution to the inhumanity of snares is to ban them.

What should I do if I come across an animal trapped in a snare?

Your first instinct might be to rush in and try to help, but this could not only injure you, but also the animal. A trapped animal may panic and struggle even more to escape, if  approached by a human – injuring themselves even more. The safest thing to do is to retire to a safe distance, so that the animal is calmer, and to call for professional help. Stay where you can see the animal, in order to guide others to the animal and to keep others, who may alarm the animal, away.

If traps are such a terrible thing, why do some people still use them?

Sadly, as Animal Aid highlights almost every day, many people are indifferent to causing pain, distress and death to animals. This lack of compassion is often increased when the animal is wild or is considered to be a ‘pest’.

Where can I find out more?

Read our briefing sheet

Read the 2022 report by Professor Stephen Harris on snares

Find out more about different types of snares with the NASC

Hunt Investigation Team provide more examples of breaches of the Code of Practice

Read OneKind’s Snarewatch 2020 Annual Report

What can I do to help?

Contact your MP and ask them to help ban snares

Contact your local councillors and ask them to help ban snares