-gamekeepers recommend current snare phase-out-
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has written to Ministers recommending existing snares be banned for use and sale in Scotland and replaced with new humane holding devices.
The gamekeeper representative body, which has 5300 members, claims the new devices, which allow an animal to break free, represent a major step-change in animal welfare.
Some organisations such as SSPCA have persistently campaigned to ban snares, which trained land managers, poultry keepers and pest controllers use to restrain foxes prior to them being humanely despatched.
The Scottish Animal Welfare Commission, set up by Scottish Government, recently recommended prohibition.
However, neither body has seen new humane holding device technology in use in this country as they have only been trialled in two places in Scotland, to date.
Where the devices have been used in fox population control, gamekeepers say the welfare improvements are undeniable.
Now, they have asked to demonstrate the technology to Ministers and Scottish Government animal health teams, to show those improvements in field situations.
They are also willing to assist Government with further testing and trialling prior to new devices gaining approval to be used.
The new devices are fitted as standard with a lock which relaxes around the fox’s neck when held.
This discourages pulling on the devices.
In addition, a shortened tail from the mid-point swivel to the anchor means the held fox cannot range so far from where the device is secured, reducing the risk of harm caused by trying to pull free.
Non-target species such as deer and badgers can free themselves from the holding devices, if they exert the type of pressure which animals of that size are capable of.
There is also an improved ‘stop’ system which ensures the device cannot tighten around a fox’s neck but stops at a diameter where this would be impossible.
Where the devices have been used in the field, gamekeepers are reporting no signs of injury to foxes.
Home-made devices 'rightly condemned'
“Many of the snares people see on these awful campaign videos are not actual snares and they are illegal. They are often home-made, crude devices used by people such as poachers. This is abhorrent and is rightly condemned but it should not be confused with legal snaring carried out by professional, trained operators,” said Paul Wilson, SGA Committee member, who has used the new holding devices.
“By proposing this we are not saying existing legal snares, used by trained operators, are causing harm. This is about continually making improvements and ensuring the highest standards in legal predator management.
“Some of the snares examined by bodies such as Scottish Animal Welfare Commission in their report, for example, are older and have perhaps not been subjected to the same testing as the latest technology.
“That is why we recommend a phase-out of existing snares and for professionals to move over to the new technology, like they did recently and successfully with the new generation of traps for stoats, to meet International Humane Trapping Standards.
“There will be a cost to this, of course, but the new holding devices are more welfare friendly and strike a better balance between welfare and the needs of farmers, gamekeepers and pest controllers to have tools to be able to legally manage foxes in different circumstances. We feel this is a cost professionals involved in trained wildlife management will be willing to assume.
“We also recommend that all new holding devices are fitted with an ID tag obtained from Police Scotland, as per current snares.”
While gamekeepers acknowledge it is possible for non-targets such as badgers to be caught, they say trained professionals avoid setting devices where there are known badger populations.
Similarly, with the new devices- should the unintended occur- badgers could either free themselves or will be held unharmed until they can be released safely by the operator.