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Durkan rethinks law on animal snares after flood of calls for ban

By Linda Stewart

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has pulled the plug on a controversial new law that allows animals to be caught in snares.

The minister had laid down an Order to be approved by the Assembly in the near future which would lead to regulation of snares rather than an outright ban - even though an Ipsos MORI poll in August revealed that three out of four people in Northern Ireland want the practice to be banned.

Now, after being inundated with hundreds of tweets calling for a ban, Mr Durkan says he won't be taking it forward yet.

This week he tweeted: "3 out of 4 people here want to ban snares. Think 300 out of 400 have tweeted me tonight. Message received loud and clear!"

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I am aware that many are opposed to the idea of using snares in any situation and that they believe that the proposed Order does not go far enough.

"I want to take more time to consider this further before proceeding with any legislative changes. To this end I do not intend to take forward the Snares Order in the Assembly at this time." His Department said that in 2010, during the passage of the Wildlife and Natural environment Bill through the Assembly, there was debate on calls to ban the use of snares in Northern Ireland.

"Those calls were rejected by the Assembly, so the use of snares remained legal and subject to the provisions of the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985," a spokesman said.

The League Against Cruel Sports had launched a campaign this week calling for snares to be banned, claiming that MLAs were being duped into believing they are voting to protect animal welfare and nothing short of a complete ban would prevent suffering.

Janice Watt, NI senior public affairs officer for the League, said: "If you put a wire noose out in a field, it doesn't matter what regulations are written on a piece of paper - an animal will suffer."

A Defra report in 2012 into their snaring code of practice showed that not a single fox snare operator visited was fully compliant with the code a full seven years after it had been introduced, the League said.

Furthermore, a shooting industry study revealed that less than half of the gamekeepers involved had even read it.

The League says it has documented the suffering caused by legal free-running snares, including animals found with the wire cutting through to the bone; snares almost cutting them in half; and many found dead in snares meant to simply restrain them.

"Snares are mainly used by gamekeepers to kill foxes, so that the foxes don't kill the gamebirds that will then be shot," Ms Watt said. "There's a twisted logic behind that argument anyway. But beyond that, lethal predator control is not effective - you might kill one fox, but another will fill the space within four days.

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