Legal requirements and responsible use

Legal restrictions on the use of snares are described in our guidance leaflet.

The Defra Code of Practice on the use of snares (CoP) was a response to lobbying for a ban the use of snares because they were perceived to cause animal suffering and to be non-selective. The Independent Working Group on Snares, set up at the request of Defra in 2004 and chaired by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, reviewed available evidence. It acknowledged that poor welfare and non-selectivity were risks associated with snares, but noted that there was considerable variation associated with details of hardware construction and operating practices. The CoP drafted by this committee aimed to define good snare design and operating practice. 

Although the CoP reiterated statutory restrictions on the use of snares, the majority of its content was advisory in nature; these two levels of coercion were signalled by ‘must’ and ‘should’ respectively. The CoP thus goes well beyond the ‘minimum necessary’, encouraging the user voluntarily to adopt a responsible style of use.

Defra’s expectation was that the CoP would become embedded in training and educational material and thus influence users. The CoP was swiftly endorsed by bodies thought to represent the majority of snare users, and was adopted into training and educational material, at least in the game management world. However, a problem recognised by the IWGS was that there was little hard evidence about either the extent of snare use in the UK, or about the influence of training.

In 2012, the publication of two major pieces of research filled that gap. The Defra study showed that only half of the snare-using community had previously been identified (gamekeepers); an equal number of snare users had farming as their principle occupation and had not been addressed in educational campaigns. The study also showed that knowledge of the CoP was incomplete, and that  adoption of its recommendations was selective.  One reason suggested for the latter was the lack of evidence supporting the recommendations of the CoP. That evidence emerged both from the Defra trial, and particularly from the GWCT breakaway snare trial.

In the light of all this research, the 2005 Defra Code of Practice has now been superseded by new Codes in England, Wales and Scotland. Legal provisions differ slightly, but all three Codes are endorsed and promoted by the relevant countryside organisations, and indicate the standard of responsible use expected of all those who use fox snares.

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