Wales votes to ban animal snares

Wales is on track to become the first UK nation to ban snares, after a vote in the Senedd backed criminalising what campaigners say is a cruel and indiscriminate way to trap wild animals.

The wire traps are used by gamekeepers and farmers across the country in efforts to catch foxes, which would otherwise hunt lambs and gamebirds. But critics say the traps cause animals immense suffering, and that non-target species are regularly caught.

The Welsh government’s agriculture (Wales) bill, which looks likely to pass in the next few weeks, will make the use of snares in Wales an offence carrying a potential six-month jail sentence or an unlimited fine.

Late on Tuesday, members of the Senedd voted down Conservative amendments to the bill that opponents said would have have been a back door for continued use of snares.

Will Morton, the League Against Cruel Sports’ head of public affairs, said: “Wales is leading the way in animal welfare by being the first country to ban these cruel and indiscriminate traps. We thank the thousands of campaigners who are backing the ban in Wales and the MSs who gave cross party support to make it become a reality.”

According to 2012 research by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), up to 250,000 snares lie hidden in undergrowth of England and Wales. The wire nooses catch animals around the neck, pinning them in place.

According to existing regulations, snare operators must return to check on them at least once a day, while voluntary codes of best practice recommend twice a day, particularly at dawn as most animals are caught at night.

But opponents say that in practice trapped animals can suffer for hours or days, vulnerable to other animals, before they are shot or slowly die. The traps themselves can be lethal, with wire nooses that tighten the more an animal struggles to free itself.

Snare operators predominantly use them to catch foxes, with a smaller number used for hunting rabbits. But Defra’s research found badgers, hares, otters, deer and even domestic dogs and cats were also often caught.

Polling carried out by YouGov in January 2021 showed 78% of the Welsh public wanted snares to be made illegal.

Amendments to the agriculture bill tabled by Sam Kurtz, the Conservative MS for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, would have allowed for the continued “licensed use of humane cable restraints”. All four were defeated by 38 votes to 14.

Morton added: “The ban on the use of snares will protect wild, farmed and domestic animals from falling victim to these brutal devices, a move that will be welcomed by the vast majority of the Welsh people.

“The next step is to lobby the UK and Scottish governments to follow the precedents set in Wales and to ban these barbaric devices.”