Page last updated at 19:18 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Northern Ireland opinion divided on animal snaring

Martin Cassidy
BBC rural affairs correspondent

fox caught in a wire snare
The League Against Cruel Sports wants an end to the practice of animal snaring

An animal welfare charity is pushing for an end to the snaring of foxes in Northern Ireland but countryside groups claim existing controls are sufficient.

The League Against Cruel Sports said many MLAs backed its move to end the practice of snaring used by gamekeepers to control predators and pests.

Local gamekeepers, however, said modern snares were designed to hold an animal securely without causing injury.

One County Down keeper said snares were vital in controlling foxes.

"Already there are fox cubs born and we are seeing a lot more foxes around," said the gamekeeper who looks after pheasants," he said.

A spokesperson for the League Against Cruel Sports said: "In drafting new animal welfare legislation, Northern Ireland has a unique opportunity not only to end the use of snaring but to set an example to the rest of the UK and Ireland that snares have no place in modern society."

The Assembly's agriculture committee has been hearing the arguments for a ban from the animal welfare charity.

Chairman Ian Paisley Junior said the committee would consider veterinary advice that when carried out properly, snaring can be the least inhumane way of controlling predators.

"We will have to consider all these things in the round," said Mr Paisley.

So would a majority of MLA's back a ban and make Northern Ireland the first region in the UK to outlaw snares?

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation thinks not.

Spokesman Roger Pollen said snares provided protection not only for game birds but many ground-nesting birds like curlew and small mammals too.

The issue of snares will be considered again when the Assembly deals with a new wildlife order.

Tighter controls and perhaps a licensing system look possible although an outright ban seems unlikely at this stage.



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