We have a moral duty to treat animals in a humane and compassionate way. I share the concerns of many constituents about the use of snares, which can cause extreme suffering to animals and often a painful, lingering death.
The last Labour Government issued guidance in 2005 which included information on how snares should be maintained and set to reduce the pain inflicted. It also detailed steps that must be taken to reduce the chance that a non-target animal is caught. In addition, the last Labour Government introduced the 2006 Animal Welfare Act, under which any animal controlled by a person should be protected from unnecessary suffering. Animals caught by snares are deemed to be controlled and any person inflicting unnecessary suffering to a controlled animal is liable for criminal prosecution with a maximum punishment of a £20,000 fine or six months’ imprisonment.
In 2008 the Labour Government also commissioned research to determine how often snares are being used in England and Wales and the level of suffering they inflict upon the animals snared. This research, which was finally published by the Coalition Government in March 2012, recommended increased education for those who use snares, improving the uptake of the Code of Practice on snaring and encouraging the use of Code compliant snares.
During the last Parliament, the Coalition Government stated it had met with interested parties on both sides of this debate and was considering options for improving welfare standards. The Coalition Government also said it was working with stakeholders to improve advice on how to comply with existing requirements. However, it did not consult on banning or restricting the use of snares and had no plans to do so. The current Conservative Government has still not outlined how it proposes to improve the guidance on snaring. The Government says it is still considering how to improve the humaneness of snaring and that it will make an announcement in due course.
The practice of snaring needs to be reviewed. Prior to the election, my Shadow Frontbench colleagues committed to work with stakeholders to address this cruel practice and undertake an independent review on how to prevent non-target animals getting trapped in snares.
I hope it will not be too long before the Government outlines its position on this important issue and I hope the Government will listen carefully to the concerns that continue to be raised by animal welfare groups about the use of snares.