HC Deb 26 January 2004 vol 417 cc5-7W
Mr. Edwards

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what guidance is issued to gamekeepers and others involved in the setting of snares; [148451]

(2)what checks are in place to ensure that the law is being enforced with respect to the setting of snares; [148452]

(3)what obligation the United Kingdom has under the Berne Convention on conservation of European wildlife and their habitats with respect to snaring; [148453]

(4)when she expects to publish the results of the review of the law relating to the use of snares; [148454]

(5)what representations she has received about the illegal use of snares; and if she will make a statement. [148455]

Mr. Bradshaw

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects all wild birds and certain animals from killing and taking. Under Section 11 of the 1981 Act free running snares are permissible provided that the snare is not placed in such a way to allow injury to any animal listed on Schedule 6 of the 1981 Act, which includes badgers. Section 11(3) makes it an offence to set in position, or knowingly cause or permit to set 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. The snare must also be inspected at least once every 24 hours, so as to avoid any animal held in the snare suffering unnecessarily through starvation or dehydration. All non-target species must be released from the snare.

Free-running snares are not considered an indiscriminate means of either capture or killing provided they are set correctly and are checked every 24 hours. They are designed to be a restraining device that is intended to slacken, not continually tighten, thus not causing bodily injury.

The purpose of Section 11 is to expressly prohibit the use of indiscriminate means of capture and killing, in accordance with our international obligations, under the Bern Convention. Penalties for offences under Section 11, including not checking snares and not releasing non target species, include fines of up to £5000 and/or a custodial sentence of up to six months for each offence. The Police are the main authority for enforcing this area of legislation.

The Department does not issue advice to gamekeepers on how snares should be set. However, the British Association of Shooting and Conservation has published a Code of Good Practice and the Game Conservancy Trust includes detailed guidance on best practice with all snares that they sell.

It is considered that a complete ban on the use of snares might encourage the use of more dangerous, indiscriminate and illegal alternatives, such as poisons. We have no current plans to alter the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 with regard to snares. It is important that until viable alternatives are available to land managers the humane use of traps and snares is improved. Officials have undertaken a stakeholder consultation to assess current practice; identify best practice and methods that cause concern; as well as request suggestions for the improvements of snare operation and any potential alternative methods. The consultation period ended on the 13 November. Officials will be collating the comments over the next few months. A copy of the pre-consultation paper can be found on the Defra website at http://defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/snares/letter.htm

Officials received 101 responses to the stakeholder consultation.

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