Taking it on the gin
Ministry of Agriculture proposals to use a more humane trap than the gin will find favour says Tower-bird, so long as the thing actually works
Lord Carrington, Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, announced that the Government proposed to introduce the Sawyer humane rabbit trap and to bring it into use under everyday conditions. This would require, he said, substantial replacement of the present gin trap. It is not intended to introduce legislation for the use of the Sawyer trap; it will be used at first by county agricultural committees and pest control services, but later ordinary rabbit catchers will be encouraged to adopt it.
Every sportsman and every rabbit catcher in the country would welcome a trap that is more humane than the gin in common use. But since rabbit populations, if not properly controlled, can turn into “a plague” that could feasibly threaten the nation’s food supply, it is essential to put the accent hard and fast on Efficiency (with a capital E). A number of rabbit catchers known to me do not consider the Sawyer trap nearly as efficient as the gin. Since it kills its victim, it is more humane generally, but if the Ministry considers it as efficient as the gin, it has been listening to faulty information.
That the gin is not humane I agree but the cruelty involved has been much exaggerated. How many people really know anything about rabbit trapping from first-hand experience? And who can say what intensity of physical pain a rabbit feels? It is impossible to gauge this by human standards.
I believe that a rabbit, caught in a trap set (illegally), is caused acute mental suffering, for it is held in the open at the mercy of its enemies, and in deadly fear. On the other hand, a rabbit caught in the mouth of a burrow down which it can draw the trap to the length of the chain is at least hidden from its enemies in the dark, secluded shelter of the earth. I cannot believe that there is much physical suffering endured by the gripping of jaws on a numbed limb, as occurs with a gin trap. Even should the rabbit struggle to the extent of breaking loose minus a foot, it seems doubtful whether the physical pain becomes serious, for rabbits which have met with such “accidents” have been seen outside their burrow feeding within a matter of hours.
Nevertheless, we all look forward to the time when rabbits can be trapped painlessly (that is, killed outright) and the good pioneering work of Mr Sawyer and the RSPCA should not go unpraised.
After I had read the report of Lord Carrington’s remarks in the House of Lords, I showed them to a professional rabbit catcher. “Well,” said he after reading them, “there won’t be any shortage of rabbits from now on.
I was given a dozen of these to try for the boss, and you have had my opinion about them. I tied them together and sent them into the market.”
Having looked up some notes I wrote about the trap a year or two ago, I shall quote them, though it is possible that improvements in some respects may now have been made. But if such is the case, specimen traps should be available to those who have a wide practical experience of trapping and would like to give the “new” version a fair trial.
This is what I wrote: “To begin with, to carry several dozen of these traps is to set oneself something of a Chinese puzzle in sorting them out at journey’s end. Furthermore, they