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Response to consultation on snaring

13-02-2008

Consultation on Snaring in Scotland

Thankyou for the opportunity to respond to this consultation. The Cairngorms Campaign has over four hundred members, many of whom have a detailed knowledge of the Eastern Highlands and its wildlife. They also spend much time in the wider Highlands and Islands on foot, gaining knowledge of these broader areas, their wildlife, and the fate of that wildlife.

We note that the consultation document considers three options of doing nothing, making technical changes to the practice of snaring, or of banning them outright. As you recommend, we consider our response under the three questions stated in para 1 of your document, namely:-

1)    Humane treatment of animals.
2)    The practical needs of good land management.
3)    Nature conservation and biodiversity objectives (Including the need to avoid endangering protected species and to ensure compliance with European Law.)

We additionally consider issues concerning general public safety and concern

1) Humane Treatment of Animals
Even if practised within the current law, snaring is an inhumane way for an animal to die. Animals caught in snares often die slow deaths, especially of they are caught by the leg, or around their waste, as happens to badgers for example. Anyone who knows where to seek these often hidden snares has come upon the remains of animals that have died in this way. The worst case brought to our attention was of six roe deer all caught in the same set of snares, one still dying a considerable time after being trapped. Animals like roe deer do not usually get caught by their necks and strangle. They tend to get caught by their legs and trash around, tightening the noose and finally die slowly of shock, thirst or other causes.

Killing of any domestic or farm animal in this way in legal slaughterhouses or elsewhere would immediately lay the offender open to criminal charges of cruelty. Why should standards of humane treatment of animals differ between domestic and wild animals? There would be no difference in the degree of suffering experienced by domestic and wild animals, and that surely should be the common standard by which a practice is judged.  It is an embarrassment to Scotland abroad that this barbaric practice is still permitted under our law.

A further consideration is whether, if snaring remains legal, such requirements as inspection every 24 hours would be properly observed. In practice, this requirement is mostly not observed with regard to this or other forms of trapping such as gin traps. Cairngorms Campaign members have not infrequently come upon examples of animals in snares and traps and which have been left there to die, not removed by the required daily/24 hour inspection. As an example, photograph no 1 shows a young mountain hare caught in a snare, its carcase showing significant decay, as the snare has been un-inspected for a considerable period. Photograph no 2 shows a young mountain hare caught in a gin trap which has been uninspected for so long that the carcase is semi-mummified. Photograph no 3 shows the remains of a rabbit caught in a gin trap and which has been uninspected for so long that the carcase has almost entirely rotted.

Abuse of wildlife protection law is not confined to some eccentric minority of gamekeepers, but widespread. This is clearly demonstrated by recent studies showing the widespread poisoning of species harmless to the claimed interests of gamekeepers and land managers such as the Red Kite, and of the similar destruction of golden eagles and other raptors strictly protected in law.

This lack of adherence to the law will be equally true if any form of snaring was permitted. Considerable and unnecessary cruelty would be inflicted on wildlife, including protected species.

2) The Practical Needs of Good Land Management
The scientific, ecological basis of the whole practice of killing predators to boost populations of game species is believed to be doubtful by ecologists and other wildlife experts. Snaring of fast breeding species is completely ineffective in controlling their populations. It is predatory species held to be harmful to populations of game species like grouse that are often targeted. However, a key finding of ecological studies has been that it is the population of the prey species, that is its relative abundance,  that regulates the population of predators, not the reverse.

Current legal use of snaring to carry out measure like “Saturation Snaring” whereby an area like a woodland is set with 20 or 30 snares, apart from the unnecessary wholesale killing of species they target, inevitably impact on some protected species.
3) Nature Conservation and Biodiversity Objectives

A further and major area of concern lies in the assertion that snares can be laid to distinguish between protected and unprotected species. There is no basis for this belief. Practical experience of finding nontarget species in snares confirms this, and species like pine marten and wildcat are caught in them. The recent EU financed Caledonian Partnership Life 2002 Project, subtitled “Urgent conservation management for Scottish capercaillie” cost over £5M. Of this,  £3M was spent in the Cairngorms National Park.  Approximately £1M was spent on predator control, which included the use of snares. It is not surprising that no deaths of these protected species were reported by the CPL2002P, but quite unbelievable. This publicly financed programme almost certainly damaged protected species through snaring.

Keepers and others set snares knowing nontarget protected species can and will be caught in them and hence are already in breach of the law.

The idea that ‘non-target species should be released with a minimum of delay is derisible.  Animals caught in snares do not sit quietly. They trash in panic, tightening the noose, causing injuries that make their survival after release unlikely, or suffering potentially fatal levels of shock. Releasing them is possibly more cruel than killing them.

Excessive use of snaring is part of a trend that needs countered. Much damage is done by such growing practices. For example, the elimination of mountain hares based on the assertion that they carry ticks that spread tick-borne diseases that in turn affect grouse populations are even more doubtful in their ecological basis. On the estate on which photograph no 1 was taken, killing of mountain hares is systematic and the bodies of a whole series of them were found on one day. The mountain hare is an Annex V species now widely persecuted in the Highlands and increasingly scarce. A proposed research project on it by a major research institute was recently abandoned because of the failure to find a population of mountain hares on which it could be based.

4) Other General Considerations

Our members spend much time on the hills and general uplands. We observe that snares are now even set on footpaths where walkers, exercising their legal right of access, are liable to catch no 4 illustrates such a snare on a route used by walkers. Members of the public have brought our attention to incidents when, while out walking, their dogs have got caught in snares. Since the animal cannot bark or make any sound of distress once caught, unless the owner realises something is wrong and finds the animal quickly, it inevitably dies.

It must be remembered that the dominant landuse in supporting the Highland’s and Island’s economy is tourism based on landscape and wildlife, not recreational hunting on sporting estates. Yet several of the species thus targeted, such as golden eagle, are iconic of that landscape and wildlife and their persecution potentially damages that broader economy.

Such considerations should also be taken into account.

For the reasons listed above, we strongly recommend that all snaring is made illegal.

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