THE Scottish Government’s wildlife management reforms go “above and beyond” expectations, according to a pest controller who consulted on the bill.

The Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill was introduced in March this year with the goal of changing the rules around how people capture and kill wild animals, and the regulation around muirburn – the seasonal burning of heather to aid land management.

This would include banning of snares – thin wire nooses attached to an object which are used to catch animals – and glue traps – sticky boards coated with non-drying glue that small animals like rodents get stuck to.

The Scottish Government this week launched a public consultation on the potential banning of snares and the extension of powers granted to the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), which followed a previous consultation on the use of glue traps.

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Kevin Newell, the founder and owner of Humane Wildlife Solutions – the first pest control company in Europe to use completely non-lethal methods to deal with animal infestations – said that he is “surprised" plans to ban snares have gotten this far.

He said: “To be honest, I’ve got to admit I was surprised to see the Scottish Government saying they are going to go ahead and ban snares. 

“I knew the glue traps ban would come through, but I didn’t think the banning of snares was something getting serious attention."

Newell was asked by the Scottish Government to consult on the use of glue traps due to his work in interior pest control, where glue traps are primarily used.

But he said that snares are mainly used in hunting to protect game birds from predators, and that their application as a tool for household pest control and land management in farming and the agricultural sector is more limited.

Newell, who is a lifelong animal rights advocate as well as a professional in the pest control industry, said: "Gamekeepers have all sorts of different tools they can use to control wildlife, snares are just a lazy way that they go about it.

“I’ve seen the results of these snares. Non-target species, we’re talking about red squirrels, cats, dogs, deer, all caught. The sad thing is, there is never any action taken against those who illegally catch a species they shouldn’t be catching in the first place.

“If someone snares someone’s cat or dog, nothing ever comes of that."

He continued: "I didn't really expect [a ban] to happen in Scotland.

"The shooting industry is a very, very powerful industry that has got a lot of influential people and a lot of money to fight their causes.

"The changes they're suggesting with the glue traps and snares too go above and beyond anything we had expected."

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He noted the recent passage of the Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill in January this year as another example of Scotland passing "progressive" legislation far beyond the expectations of many activists.

The bill also proposes that the SSPCA will be given further powers, allowing them to seize illegal traps even if they have not snared an animal yet.

Newell said the further powers will be useful, but only if they are applied in the right way, saying that the ability to remove snares would only be significant "if followed up by a prosecution of the person setting those snares”.

He added that in England, the RSPCA will not necessarily take on every case reported to them, and if there was no obligation for the SSPCA to take on cases then it could lead to similar issues in Scotland where some wildlife crimes would be left uninvestigated.

The Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill represents an area of legislation in which devolved governments are taking the lead.

The UK Government banned glue traps in its Glue Traps (Offences) Act 2022, but is yet to introduce legislation to stop the use of snares.

The Welsh Government, however, passed its Agriculture (Wales) Bill earlier this year in June, becoming the first area of the UK to introduce an outright ban on snaring.

If the Scottish bill was passed, it would leave Northern Ireland and England as the only areas of the UK where the practice remains legal, making them outliers in Europe.

The UK is one of only six countries in the continent where snaring remains legal. Belgium, France, Ireland, Spain and Latvia are the only other nations which permit the practice.

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Jake Swindells, director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, defended the use of snares in managing wildlife. He said: “The use of snares is an important tool in wildlife management, which benefits conservation and a range of economic activities from agriculture, shooting, forestry and eco-tourism.

“Given the Scottish Government has already legislated against other practical and effective alternative forms of pest control, this proposal leaves risking those working in the countryside even more unequipped.

“Well-designed snares, used properly, are a humane and effective form of fox control. They are a restraining, rather than killing, device.

“Legislating as suggested will only tie the hands of land managers and conservationists, whilst criminals continue to use illegal snares unaffected by any legislation.”

The public consultation, which is open to all, began on August 22 and will run for six weeks until October 3, 2023.