Snare row as wildlife bill passed by MSPs

This badger was found alive in a snare on a shooting estate in the Borders
Image caption This badger was found alive in a snare on a shooting estate in the Borders

A new wildlife bill which includes stricter regulations on animal snares has been passed by MSPs.

A controversial amendment which sought a ban on snares was voted down in favour of tougher rules on their use.

The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill also imposes tougher penalties on employers if their staff illegally poison birds.

There is a new criminal vicarious liability offence for those who turn a blind eye to bird persecution.

The bill also includes improvements in approachs to dealing with invasive non-native species and changes to deer management.

Supporters of a ban on snares said animals such as badgers and mountain hares were suffering horrible injures and death after being caught in them.

However, opponents said an effective method to control predators, such as foxes, was vital.

Labour MSP Irene Oldfather, who tabled the amendment on banning snares, argued that, even when they are used legally, "animal suffering cannot be avoided".

She said: "Scotland should treat its beautiful wild animals with respect and accept once and for all that killing them in wire nooses is a technique which must be consigned to the dustbin of history."

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: "Crofters, gamekeepers and farmers all over Scotland need to be able to protect their crops and livestock."

She added that if the amendment was agreed they would have "no other option than lamping and shooting".

The decision to vote down the ban on snares was condemned by animal rights charities the League Against Cruel Sports and The Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT).

The League's Scottish spokeswoman Louise Robertson said: "The overwhelming will of the public has been ignored here today and animals will continue to suffer in their thousands as a result."

SWT head of policy Tony King said their use was "indiscriminate and therefore against European conservation law".

However, the continued use of snares was welcomed by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC).

GWCT Scottish director Dr Adam Smith said the new legislation "will make the practice of snaring in the future for the control of pest species more effective and more humane".

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