by Adrian Blackmore

The Government has announced that it will be launching a call for evidence on the use of snares for fox control to determine whether, through its Animal Action for Welfare Plan, any changes need to be made to reflect concerns that have been raised. In Wales, the first Welsh Agriculture Bill which was laid before the Senedd at the end of September also includes a Program for Government commitment for a complete ban on the use of snares, and it is understood that Scottish ministers are likewise considering the question.

Snaring is one of a range of essential measures used to manage certain species, the control of which underpins agricultural production, farm animal husbandry, the sustainable harvesting of gamebirds, and the protection of species of the highest conservation concern including the curlew. Specifically, it is a legitimate and effective form of fox control, especially in habitats where other control techniques are either ineffective or impracticable. 

In response to calls for Governments to ban the production and use of snares, the Alliance and other countryside organisations worked with Defra to produce a Code of best practice on the use of snares for fox control in England which was published in 2016. That code replaced a previous code that was produced by Defra in 2005, and it reflected the current state of knowledge following extensive research by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust into: the use of fox snares by different interest groups; snare design; operating practices; selectivity; and the condition of captured animals. The practices that led to a risk of poor welfare, and those designs that helped to minimise non-target captures, were also identified, and these were addressed both in the new Code for England, and that published by the Welsh Government the previous year.

Only code complaint snares can now be used in England and Wales, and set correctly, and used in conjunction with the Codes, they significantly reduce the risk of injury, and the likelihood of capturing non-target species. In Scotland, all those using snares must be both trained and qualified, and last December the Alliance assisted in compiling a report to the Scottish Government, detailing voluntary measures that should be taken to further improve best practice. We will continue to work with the respective Governments to ensure that this essential management tool is not lost, and that any changes are proportionate and justified. 

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