A campaign has been launched to ban the use of animal snares in the UK. A petition set up is campaigning to ‘make the use of free-running snares illegal for trapping wildlife’. 


There are different types of snares that are usually categorised as either ‘self-locking’ or ‘free-running’. Some of them remain legal to use in the UK, and others are banned under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Snares are often used heavily by game keepers on bird shooting estates to catch foxes and prevent the loss of ‘game’ birds. Other landowners in general use them to catch foxes and hares amongst other small mammals that they don’t want on their land.

A self-locking snare is‘a wire loop device which continues to tighten by a ratchet action as the animal struggles. Its aim is to catch the victims around the neck, so that they die through strangulation or by dislocation of the neck.’ (National Anti-Snaring Campaign) This is a type of snare that is currently illegal in the UK, although as with the Hunting Act, this is regularly ignored, and these snares are still found being used across the country. 


A free-running snare, which remains legal, is meant to relax when the animal stops pulling and subsequently only trap the animal. The legislation is meant to ensure free-running snares in the UK are used as ‘restraining devices’ rather than ‘killing devices’. This is because self-locking snares were in the past causing death by ‘accidentally capturing non-target species’.  

Despite this legislation in place, fatal snaring is happening frequently. The National Anti-Snaring Campaign is an animal welfare organisation set up to campaign against the use of animal snares. On their website they report on the issue of blurred lines when it comes to categorising what is a ‘free-running’ snare and what is a‘self-locking’ snare. They put it down to these issues:

“Wire snares are similar in appearance, and it is often the placement of a bolt which determines whether the snare is free-running or self-locking. There are circumstances where a free-running snare,when used or damaged, could be considered to be self-locking in its operation. Dual purpose, rocking eye or AB snares which aretechnically described as free-running, have the capacity in their operation to function as self-locking devices.” 

Ultimately, there is often little difference between the two, and people remain to use both legal and illegal types of snares to kill animals. This year alone, we have seen a terrible number of incidents with animals being found caught in snares. Often if not already deceased they are badly injured or end up having to be put to sleep because of their injuries. It’s not just wild animals being caught in them; domestic animals have also been caught in them as well as people.

A cub was recently found caught in a ‘Fenn Trap’ which is a popular spring trap used frequently by gamekeepers. These spring traps are not allowed to be set in the open.  

Not only are these snares cruel, but they are also generally unsafe and outdated. A campaign has been set up urging the government to prohibit the “sale, use and manufacture of free-running snares under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, putting themin the same category as self-locking snares”. 

Keep The Ban is supporting Animal Aid’s campaign, that is also being back by The Hunt Investigation Team (HIT) who have previously done work to prevent snares being used. In June last year the HIT exposed cruelty on the Moscar Moor Estate on National Trust land in Derbyshire, whereby gamekeepers were found to have used a ‘fatally wounded call bird in a Larsen trap, trapping hypothermic fox cubs and setting traps on badger setts’. Following thisa young female badger was then caught in a snare set by a Moscar gamekeeper and rescued by the HIT. On both occasions the RSPCA were brought in and the traps were removed.


The petition set up can be found here.

Amy Schouwenburg

Head of Social Media