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The Case Against Snares (i.e. the Badgerland view)


The Animal Rights Activist

Staunch opponent : Animal rights activist John Gill

John Gill, 51, of Castleside, near Consett, County Durham, has been prosecuted several times - and served time in jail - for a campaign which he began in 1991 when his dog died after being snared. He dedicates himself to removing snares, even if it means trespassing on private land.

There is indisputable and overwhelming evidence that all snares cause horrific injuries to animals. Sheep, deer, cats, dogs, badgers, otters and hares as well as foxes die in snares.

There is a book called Fair Game, which is written by two police wildlife liaison officers, that claims to be a concise and comprehensive guide to the law relating to country sports and the conservation and protection of wildlife.

It states that extreme care must be taken to ensure that Schedule 6 animals (such as otters and badgers) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 cannot come into contact with snares. It also says that snares should never be set in, or attached, to fences.

The present day badger population is estimated to be twice that of the fox population. Otters are on the increase. The reality is that snares are set in large numbers on tracks in woodland which any animal will use. Dead animals such as deer, sheep, hens, rabbits, seagulls and pheasants are put in piles to attract scavengers and surrounded by snares.

In many woods, obstructions are built using fencing and branches to create an obstacle wall directing ALL animals that come along to a gap where a snare is placed.

The setting of snares in or under, and attached to, fences and under gates is a common practice. I have a police statement taken from one gamekeeper which says that in one location alone over 90 snares were set in holes under a fence line.

In 1968, a trial was run comparing the efficiency and cruelty of the free-running (legal) and self-locking (now illegal) snares. Neither type of snare was significantly more efficient nor less cruel than the other.

Badgers die with their throats cut open, jaws ripped off, stomachs cut open and even scalped by snares.

At my jury trial in 1999 the judge ruled that images of snared animals were too emotive for the jury to see.


The RSPCA has long campaigned for the abolition of snares. A statement from the organisation said:

The RSPCA contends that while some rural predator control may be required, snares are indiscriminate and cruel and should be banned.

The RSPCA is opposed to all types of trap or snare that cause suffering and injury to animals. Self-locking snares or those that are set in places likely to cause injury to protected wild animals are illegal by virtue of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).

Legal free-running snares set for wild animals have to be inspected once a day. Snares can be legitimately set for animals such as foxes, but they are indiscriminate.

Inspectors frequently find both domestic and protected wild animals caught in snares. Many have been trapped for hours and are suffering severe physical injury and are terrified.

The basic snare is a wire that is designed to close around the animal's neck, although very often it can catch an animal around the abdomen. Sometimes the victims are protected species such as badgers and deer.

Inspectors have come across badgers that have broken the snare and dragged it with them, and have sustained deep wounds as the wire continues to cut into their flesh.

We accept that the killing of some animals is necessary but snares are not the answer. The society has long called for the end to hunting with dogs, and advocates control where necessary using a trained marksman with a high-powered rifle.

Snares, gassing and poisoning can lead to extensive suffering and are not a humane way of killing so called pest species.

There are two solutions to the problem. Firstly an outright ban, the second option would be an enforced code.

The RSPCA would seek tighter regulation on the use of snares, perhaps by an amendment to the Wildlife and Countryside Act making the already existing voluntary gamekeepers' codes mandatory.

"The world of badgers is in some ways analogous with the human world. Like us, their behaviour is greatly influenced by their need for homes and living space, and being social like we are, they too have their problems of learning how to live together ..... and with us"
Ernest Neal
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