Leg-hold animal traps, which are also called the ‘restraining traps’ or the ‘foot-hold traps’ are mechanisms designed to entrap wild animals. These traps consist of a metallic plate and a set of jaws that crush the foot of the animal that steps onto it, which is usually an animal hunted for its fur. The animals thus trapped are stomped and beaten to death so that their fur remains undamaged.
With its foot crushed in the trap, the trapped animal begins to wriggle and panic, which causes further injury. Many-a-times, these animals scratch and bite their limbs off to escape. As a result, even those animals that manage to escape these metallic jaws often lose their lives due to blood loss or infection. The trapped animals are also prevented from eating, drinking, feeding their families, etc., which further weakens them and minimizes their chances of survival.
There is no doubt that the brutal practice of setting up leg-hold animal traps needs to be purged from society. The legal status of the leg-hold animal traps needs to be analyzed to identify the international scope for improvement in this aspect.
There is a variance in the severity with which the ban against leg-hold animal traps has been enforced. In the European Union, owing to the Council Regulation (EEC) No 3254/91, there is a ban on leg-hold animal traps to discourage trapping means that don’t meet the standards of international humane trapping. Most European countries, in addition to the European EEC regulations, have their regional regulations surrounding anti-animal cruelty laws. For example, Belgium has regional laws in the Brussel as well as the Flanders region. In the Netherlands, there have been certain cases where the use of leg-hold traps has been permitted. Excluding circumstances where human life is endangered, animal traps are banned in the Netherlands. On the other hand, there is a blanket ban on hunting in Luxembourg. Although there are minor variations between the hunting laws in various EU nations, the consensus is that they are a barbaric means of hunting, and thus should be criminalized.
In Australia, regional regulations are governing the legality of leg-hold traps. In Queensland, the usage of all leg-hold animal traps is permitted. In New South Wales, only padded-jaw traps like the Jake Traps are permitted as they can trap animals without breaking the skin. In South Australia, the Prevention to Cruelty to Animals Act 1985 prohibits the usage of small steel-jaw traps. Large steel-jaw traps, except those bound by soaked Strychnine, are prohibited. In Western Australia, all traps except Victor Soft Catch #1 are permitted with certain restrictions. This is regulated by the Animal Welfare Act 1992 and the Code of Practice for the Humane Control of the Fox.
It is clear to see that Australia’s laws on leg-hold animal traps are not as progressive as that of the EU’s. Despite having a large and diverse animal population present in Australia, the laws surrounding animal rights are not as developed as that of European nations.
In the Central African Republic, the usage of traps against animals in the Lists A and B of Annexure-II of Ordinance (Art. 62) is strictly prohibited. There are efforts directed to preserve wildlife as fauna tourism is one of the most important sources of revenue generation. Other African countries like Chad and the Republic of Congo have a selective restriction on these traps which may not be effective enough to curb the issue of hunting. African nations have feeble laws in place to tackle this problem, and this may lead to a depletion of the fauna in these areas,
In Asian countries like Pakistan, these traps have been fully permitted for scientific research purposes. Countries like India and Sri Lanka have not yet adopted the proposed regulations against leg-hold animal traps. The regulation of animal traps in Asia is frail at best, and therefore needs to be amped up to provide the due protection required to the wildlife.
In Russia, selective species of animals like raccoons and beavers have been protected under the legislation in that region. This is because these animals are often hunted for their fur, as a result, they need to be protected.
The legal status of leg-hold animal traps in the United States of America is abysmal. With this nation still ardently defending this heinous practice, over 7 million mammals suffer a slow, painful death in the metal jaws of the trap. As the problem of trapping is hidden from the public eye, awareness of this issue is minimal.
It is thus clear to see that Europe is the only continent that has successfully tackled this problem on the legislative front. The other nations and continents may have taken efforts to eradicate the practice, but without strong iron-clad regulations such as those set by the EU, the ban on leg-hold animal traps may not be as effective as is needed.
Although it is encouraging to see that almost 85 countries have abolished this heinous practice, the fact that the usage of leg-hold traps has not been completely purged from the world needs to be brought to light. Through societal progress and the development of legal reforms in the animal welfare sector, this cruel practice will be completely abolished and the world as an international community can move towards a more happy and peaceful society.