Talking point: Trapped

Written by on 25 March 2013

On a grainy low-lit piece of camera footage, a fox is unaware it is being filmed from some distance away and it is dancing.
It is a peculiar, jerky dance, the fox lurches forward then leaps sharply into the air before falling back to its starting point again.

Only on closer inspection is it clear that the reason for the strange dance is the animal is trapped in a snare.

Surrounding the fox in the slice of woodland is a pit of its own making as it claws at the earth, unable to get free.

MSPs voted on the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act two years ago and brought in tougher penalties for wildlife crime, including the vicarious liability offence for landowners that allowed bird persecution to be carried out on their land — which has been credited with the revelation that poisonings had dropped to just three last year after the law was introduced.

However, the Act stopped short of a complete ban on snares, so as not to punish gamekeepers and crofters who needed to control pests on their land. The campaign to go further has been going on ever since.

Organisations like the SSPCA have criticised the snares for being a totally indiscriminate way of controlling vermin, both in what they catch (the charity regularly has to rescue ‘non-target’ species like badgers or deer from the snares) and how it catches them (although aimed to catch an animal round its throat, they have reams of pictures of animals trapped around the waist or other parts of the body).

This month a motion was passed at the Lib Dem party conference, put forward by its youth wing, to support an all-out ban on snaring. Backed by charity OneKind, Liberal Youth Scotland claim that not only is it a cruel way of catching the animals, it is also ineffective, and point out that organisations like the John Muir Trust and RSPB Scotland — which own large chunks of land across Scotland — have already stopped the practice.

The management of species on land is always a controversial topic, whether it is shooting deer to prevent overpopulation, or the cull of grey squirrels to help the indigenous red squirrel thrive — but this is not an issue about whether foxes — or any other species which threatens the wildlife and biodiversity of lands across Scotland — should be killed, it’s more about when they are, that it can be done in as humane a way as possible.

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