HL Deb 15 October 1981 vol 424 cc470-4

33 After Clause 11, insert the following new clause:

"Daily inspection of snares.

(1) If any person sets, or causes or procures to be set, any snare which is of such a nature and so placed as to be calculated to cause bodily injury to any wild animal coming into contact therewith, he shall inspect, or cause some competent person to inspect the snare at least once every day.

(2) If any person fails to comply with the provisions of this section he shall be guilty of an offence."

33B Clause 11, page 13, line 20, at end insert— ("(2A) Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person—

  1. (a) sets in position any snare which is of such a nature and so placed as to be calculated to cause bodily injury to any wild animal coming into contact therewith; and
  2. (b) while the snare remains in position fails, without reasonable excuse, to inspect it, or cause it to be inspected, at least once every day,
he shall be guilty of an offence.").

33C Clause 16, page 16, line 5, after ("11") insert ("(1) and (2)").

33D Clause 19, page 19, line 10, after ("11") insert ("(1) or (2)").

33E Clause 21, page 20, line 3, after ("11") insert ("(1) or (2)").

33F Clause 21, page 20, line 6, after ("section") insert ("11(2A)").

33G Schedule 16, page 104, line 19, at beginning insert—

("2 and 3 Geo. 5 c. 14. The Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912. In section 9 the Words "or any snare" and "or snare".").

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 33 and doth propose instead Amendments Nos. 33B to 33G.

At Report stage in another place my honourable friend who was then the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Environment agreed in principle that snares should be inspected at least once a day. We support the principle of Amendment No. 33, which seeks to prevent unnecessary suffering by providing that when-ever snares are used they must be inspected daily. However, when my honourable friend accepted that amendment he did so on the clear understanding, and with the agreement of the sponsor, that the amendment would need redrafting.

The amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Bellwin require daily inspection of snares but provide for reasonable excuses such as illness, accidents or bad weather. The maximum penalty for failure to comply with this requirement is set at £500. These amendments give full effect to the intention behind the Commons' Amendment No. 33.

Moved, That this House doth disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 33 and proposes instead the said amendment.—(Earl Ferrers.)

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Nugent of Guildford)

My Lords, the Question is, That this House doth disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 33 and proposes instead the amendments listed, in lieu thereof, since when an amendment, Amendment No. 33BA, has been tabled by the Lord Houghton of Sowerby.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved as an amendment to No. 33B, Amendment No. 33BA: Line 9, at end insert— (";and

  1. (c) fails immediately and humanely to destroy any wild animal which could lawfully be killed or taken by those means, and to release any other animal,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is intended to strenghten the original version of Amendment No. 33 which is I think still relevant to the revised version of Amendment No. 33B. This is not a very happy sequel to the anxieties that were expressed on both sides of the House at an earlier stage of this Bill on the use of the snare. A lot of people who cannot bring themselves to ban the snare nevertheless have a very guilty feeling about it. It does horrible things to animals. Unfortunately, the use of the snare is becoming more widespread, especially for snaring foxes because of the commercial value that fox pelts now have.

It is quite astonishing how in the last few years new forms of exploitation of animal life have arisen and a new commercial interest is being shown in the destruction of a part of our wildlife. Indeed, very shortly the hunting fraternity will have to join with the conservationists in order to safeguard the fox. He is being destroyed in increasing numbers for commercial purposes. But I must not reopen the whole debate on the use of the snare. We failed to get it banned and in another place they introduced the amendment which we are now considering in revised form to ensure that the snare was not left unattended, that animals were not left to linger for days on end as they have been. I have seen that. Obviously, nobody had been near the snare for two days after they had laid it.

Amendment No. 33B is the Government's version of the new clause that was inserted in another place. The strange thing about the revised version is that it departs from the precedent of the provisos of earlier legislation which closely follow this subject. I am not sure whether I am in order in debating the main amendment when I ought to be addressing myself exclusively perhaps to my own amendment.

Dealing with my own amendment, it could be said that if you provide for a snare to be inspected nobody but an idiot or a rogue would inspect a snare and do nothing about it. In other words, that they would not regard the simple physical act of inspection as fulfilling his obligations under the law. He would not simply inspect, he would do something about what he found there. My amendment may in that respect be unnecessary except for the extreme imbecility that one may encounter rarely among people who lay snares and might be indifferent to seeing an animal in it as they pass by. It is almost inconceivable that it should be so.

I am willing to be persuaded that this amendment is not really necessary. Anyway I will not take up further time of the House on this. My amendment is pretty plain and I think it is worth suggesting to the House that we have not really made as good a job as we should have done on the use of the snare.

Lord Somers

My Lords, I agree with the Government amendment, with reservations, but I should like to ask whether once a day is really sufficient. It is possible after all for an animal to be caught in a snare early in the morning, perhaps at four or five o'clock, and to have to remain there until probably six o'clock in the evening. It was once my misfortune to find a rabbit in a snare. It had been caught round the neck, and by the time I got there the snare had sunk well into its neck and the animal was absolutely in its last stages. Personally, I think the snare is every bit as inhumane as the gin trap, and I wish that we had had the understanding to ban it years ago; but we have not, and I look forward to the day when we shall.

Lord Burton

My Lords, may I say that I think it is a great pity that the Bill was not left in the same plain condition as it left this House rather than having this amendment attached to it. Certainly the Government amendment to the Commons amendment is a slight improvement, but I am afraid that this really comes from the more populated areas and does not take account of the really remote areas where foxes can be a great problem and can inflict a great deal of damage and suffering upon lambs, for example. In these remote areas, if one visits a snare even once a day, let alone twice, the probability is that a fox will never come near because the smell of the human being will still be there. Of course, it is rather different in the suburbs of London, where foxes now abound, because they are used to it, but in the remote areas they are not used to seeing human beings and the snare is really therefore almost ineffective as a means of catching animals there.

However, all these amendments are really quite unenforceable. As a result, they are really very bad law if one looks to see how one could possibly bring a prosecution against anyone on this. If you wish to watch a snare for 24 hours, having seen somebody setting it and watching it, nothing is going to go near that snare because you are near it. You have got to find out who has set it and who has not attended it in 24 hours.

As regards the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, he mentioned the question of the pelts. Of course, if you do not visit your snares regularly the pelt will be no use, because as soon as the animal is lying there wet and cold, and dies, the pelt becomes useless. So the argument is really counter-productive. If you are to kill foxes for the pelts then you must visit the snares regularly.

Lord Melchett

My Lords, the noble Lord's ability to bust open his argument absolutely astonishes me. The whole argument of those who were defending the use of snares was that no reasonable person would dream of setting a snare and not visiting it daily. The noble Lord has just said that lo and behold, that is not practicable. I imagine that the areas he is thinking of are the remoter areas of Scotland. He did not say but he is now nodding. He is obviously unaware that it is totally illegal to set a snare and not visit it daily in Scotland, where this has been a legal requirement for a great many years. The fact that the noble Lord has not been hauled into court I suppose supports his argument that the law is difficult to enforce, but I hope that now he knows what the law is he will buck up and obey it.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that was a fascinating intervention, I must say, with a rebuke for my noble friend. But I think that when we had this discussion [...]we agreed, and indeed I remember [...], if there were a suitable alternative [...]se everyone would prefer to see the [...]eplaced. However, there are other [...]pipeline, though they are not likely [...]ly to fruition.

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. is understandable, in so far as he wishes to see any animal that is caught in a snare either released or disposed of. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, said that my noble friend had bust open his own argument, but I think that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, too, busted open his own argument, because he said that nobody other than an idiot or a rogue would visit the snare once a day and then, rather like the Pharisee, pass by on the other side if he saw an animal caught. The fact is that if you make it an obligation to visit the snare every day, the inference is that the animal should either be released or dispatched. Indeed, even if the amendment of the noble Lord were accepted, I do not see how it could be enforced unless the person concerned had the local bobby walking behind him, or how a person could be brought to court for walking past a snare and not dispatching an animal caught in it. I do not see how it could be enforced.

Apart from that, however, the amendment is defective, in that it does not make provision for the humane killing of a seriously injured animal which is protected by law; so one would get the curious position of having a serious injured animal which is protected by law and which a person would not be permitted to dispatch. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, would agree that the amendment as put forward goes as far as one reasonably can in law, at least for the moment, without incorporating his own amendment.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I am persuaded that probably the law of the snare is a delusion. I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment to the amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Motion agreed to.