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

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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.

Men­tal suf­fer­ing

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

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