The Scottish Government will not ban animal snares, despite a high-profile campaign by welfare groups.

Environment Minister Mike Russell said alternatives to the wire traps were not always suitable, and an effective form of predator control was vital.

But campaigners and some MSPs accused the Scottish Government of failing to listen to public opinion.

The use of snares in Scotland will be restricted and interfering with them may be made a criminal offence.

Organisations, including Advocates for Animals, claimed the measures would not prevent protected species, such as badgers and otters, as well as household pets being caught and killed in snares.

They said the only solution was to outlaw their manufacture, sale and use.

Mr Russell told the Scottish Parliament that the control of animals, such as foxes, through snares, helped maintain Scotland’s world-famous £240m shooting industry, boost conservation projects and assisted farmers in protecting their animals.

He announced a series of measures on the use of snares, such as the compulsory fitting of safety stops, ID tags and marking areas where snaring takes place with signs.

The minister also pointed to findings by the British Veterinary Association that “in some circumstances, snaring might be the least inhumane method where control is necessary”.

Mr Russell told MSPs: “By implementing this package, Scotland will have established the best possible practice in terms of animal welfare, while allowing effective land management to continue with all the economic and conservation benefits that accrue.”

‘Serious pressure’

The government’s strategy followed calls from a range of rural groups for a strictly enforced industry code of practice to ensure responsible snare use.

Alex Hogg, chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, said: “We appreciate that the minister has come under serious pressure from some organisations for an outright ban on their use.

“However, these organisations have highlighted misuse of snares by poachers and by amateurs on urban fringes to make their case.”

Advocates for Animals political director Libby Anderson, said: “The government’s announcement is hugely disappointing and will not end the terrible suffering snares cause to vast numbers of animals.”

Another group, Animal Concern, claimed MSPs were more concerned about upsetting rural voters than taking positive steps to protect animals.

The organisation’s John Robins said: “This highlights the need to take animal welfare issues away from the minister who really represents farmers, landowners, gamekeepers and fishery interests.”

Louise Robertson, of the League Against Cruel Sports, added: “It beggars belief that the Scottish Government has ignored all the common sense arguments against the use of snares and has chosen to allow this barbaric practice to continue.”

Labour rural affairs spokeswoman Sarah Boyack pointed to a public consultation on snaring, which suggested there was a “clear majority” for a complete ban.

“Government is about tough choices and on this occasion we believe the minister has not risen to the challenge,” she said.

Her position was backed by the Greens, while SNP backbencher Christine Grahame voiced opposition to snares.

However, the government’s decision was supported by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

The campaign to ban the traps has been backed by high-profile figures, including Queen guitarist Brian May, actresses Joanna Lumley and Annette Crosby, and UN Messenger of Peace and chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall.