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E-petition 600593 calling for the use of free-running snares for trapping wildlife to be made illegal in England has received 102,616 signatures.

In its response to the petition in January 2022 the Government set out existing legislation which bans self-locking snares, regulates how free-running snares are used and more general animal welfare legislation. It also acknowledged concerns about animal welfare and highlighted that it would be issuing a call for evidence on the use of free running snares in due course. Snares that lock tight when sprung are already banned.

Policy on snares

The use of free running snares for pest control is legal in England under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.  There is also a Code of Code of Best Practice on the Use of Snares for Fox Control in England, published by game and land management associations and endorsed by Defra.

Similar legislation applies in Wales, but the Welsh Government is in the process of introducing a complete ban on the use of snares on animal welfare grounds in the Agriculture (Wales) Bill, currently before the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru.

The use of snares is allowed in Scotland, although the legislation differs to England in that it requires the regulations on snares to be reviewed every five years.  The latest review, published in 2022, recommended a wider review of their use “given the continuing concerns regarding the welfare of animals caught in snares”. This was carried out by the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission which published its conclusions in December 2022, and recommended a complete ban on the use of snares in Scotland.

Stakeholder views

Animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA  have campaigned to ban the use of snares on animal welfare grounds because of their impact on both target and non-target species. They have also raised concerns about their extensive use on game estates.

Shooting and game associations, together with land managers have opposed any proposed changes as having a negative impact on their ability to manage foxes and rabbits.

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