According to the League Against Cruel Sports, 75 per cent of Scottish voters support a total ban on snares. The Scottish Government is under considerable pressure to take action. So what can the lawabiding gamekeeper, farmer or pest controller do when the use of this essential countryside management tool is under threat? Shooting Times readers all know that a snare is simply a restraining device designed to hold the target species until the land manager can despatch it, while allowing non-target species to be released if they are unwittingly caught. We also know that in many situations snares are the only effective management tool. In order to prevent a ban, organisations such as BASC and the shooting community must ensure that both the public and MSPs are educated about the proper use of snares and underst and that they are a necessity for countryside management.
In January, the Scottish minister for environment Roseanna Cunningham was grilled by members of the Public Petitions Committee over a petition seeking to ban snaring put forward by the League Against Cruel Sports and Advocates for Animals, and supported by 10,000 signatures. The minister put up a remarkably robust defence of snaring and when asked about the value of shooting and wildlife tourism said: Both are vitally important to the economy of rural Scotland, and we want to see both grow and thrive. I question how many tourists come to Scotland to see foxes and rabbits, which
are the principal pests in countryside management.
During the questioning she made three main points: that snaring is, in the opinion of the Scottish Government, essential for countryside management; that new regulations, soon to be introduced, will professionalise snaring practice; and that, no matter what legislation is introduced, illegal snaring will still continue.
The fact that the current Government is supportive of snaring is a good starting point. Regulation such as ID tags, accreditation courses and crimped safety stops have been introduced via orders on the 20 January or will be through the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill. These measures are already adopted by nearly all sensible practitioners. Much of this new legislation will be based on Snaring in Scotland A PractitionersGuide, an industry initiative to promote best practice endorsed by the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage and 13 other organisations.
Despite this progress, the forthcoming Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill presents a real threat to snaring, through possible amendment at Stage Two. That is why it is vitally important that MSPs from all parties understand, as the minister does, the importance of retaining snaring. Land management organisations and individual practitioners have to accept that there will be further regulation but that this is designed to ensure that snaring remains as a management tool. Banning snaring will only penalise the law-abiding, while illegal snaring will continue as part and parcel of activity that is already illegal, such as poaching.
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