SCOTLAND’S largest animal charity yesterday launched a campaign to abolish the use of snares after thousands of animals, including protected species, domestic pets and livestock, were injured and killed last year.

The Scottish SPCA said that several thousand animals, including badgers, deer and horses, were being killed throughout Scotland because loopholes in legislation restricting the use of snares meant illegal trappers could not be prosecuted.

It is legal in Britain to use free-running snares to control rabbits and foxes, but the charity insists that the manufacture and use of all types of snare should be abolished to avoid the death and suffering of other animals.

The Scottish SPCA wants to increase awareness after a study revealed that even legal snares indiscriminately caused horrific injuries to wildlife.

The campaign follows a recent report by the National Federation of Badger Groups, which showed that badgers and other animals were being severely injured and killed in illegal self-locking snares.

Scottish SPCA superintendent Mike Flynn said that pine martens, red squirrels, owls and mountain hares were among the protected species caught last year alone.

He said: “Thousands of animals are dying, and we know the figures we have are only the tip of the iceberg.” The Scottish SPCA is already working in partnership with every police force in Scotland, the RSPB, MoD police, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Executive to try to catch illegal snare users.

The charity recorded one case when an Edinburgh man used snares to kill his neighbour’s cat. In another case, a trapper forgot the locations of more than 1,500 snares he had set. Flynn said that thousands of people throughout Scotland used snares, but very few were caught because of legal loopholes.

MP John Barrett, who helped launch the campaign at the Scottish SPCA’s head office, in his Edinburgh West constituency, said: “Snares are completely indiscriminate.”

Barrett, one of 85 Westminster MPs who has recently signed an early day motion expressing concern at the number of wildlife deaths caused by legal and illegal snares, said that current legislation did not go far enough in trying to curb the problem.