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T7. Mrs Long asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs whether the Department has any intention of introducing a complete ban on the use of snares, given the concerns expressed by members of the public about the continued use of snares, with recent research showing that not only are they indiscriminate and cruel but they are an inefficient method of pest control. (AQT 432/16-21)
I recognise, as I am sure the Member does, that the issue of snares is very emotive. On one hand, many animal welfare groups will argue that their use often results in the indiscriminate suffering and killing of non-target species such as badgers, hares or even, on some occasions, domestic pets, and such groups have long-standing campaigns for an outright ban on snares. On the other hand, you will get land managers, farmers and country sports organisations seeing snares as a very necessary and cost-effective means of protecting livestock, particularly lambs, and game birds from foxes.
In Northern Ireland, the use of snares is regulated by the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, which has been subsequently amended. There was a debate during the passage of welfare of animals legislation in the House in the previous mandate on the continued use of snares. That primarily involved arguments around the welfare concerns that the Member has spoken about, and the usual arguments were put forward. The Assembly obviously decided that snares should remain a legal means of capturing pest animal species, and, given all that, my understanding is that the Minister has no plans to ban snares. Therefore, there are two basic options left. One is to maintain the status quo and the other is to introduce additional measures along the lines of looking at the system a lot more to try to see if anything can be done to improve it in whatever way possible but short of an outright ban.
I thank the Minister for his response. Clearly, it is disappointing, because I think that an outright ban would be better given that, whilst they may be cost-effective, snares are an inefficient means of pest control. When does he expect the Department to be able to bring regulations forward to potentially limit the use of snares and introduce further restrictions to limit cruelty, for example, regular checks on snares and limitations to closures?
The Order gave the Department powers to set certain standards in the use of snares. The Order places additional requirements on anyone who uses snares, including that all snares must be fitted with permanent safety stops and must not be set in a manner where the animal is likely to become fully or partially suspended. The draft order requires the agreement of the Assembly to be brought into force by way of affirmative resolution, and I am aware that the Minister's predecessor in the Department of the Environment undertook some further consultation with stakeholders after the public consultation finished to assist the then Minister in deciding a way forward. The Minister has, I understand, decided to take the Snares Order forward, and officials are working on the legislation. I will ensure that the Minister writes to the Member to update her on the timescale for that.