The Swaffham Crier Online

All Birds are Equal

But Some are Less Equal Than Others

THE WILDLIFE AND COUNTRYSIDE ACT (1981) makes it illegal to trap wild birds in Scotland and the UK, but Open General Licences issued annually by the government authorise the use of crow cage traps for catching certain species for certain purposes.

The species are the corvids, crows, rooks, jackdaws and magpies, a family of birds who evidence quite remarkable high intelligence, exceptional brain-body weight ratios (31% for a magpie, as compared to a pigeon's 2%) and are extremely co-operative, commonly assisting with the rearing of each others' young, and even having "funerals" , when a dead bird is visited by all its neighbours. The special purposes are: for conserving wild birds; preserving public health and safety; to prevent the spread of disease or serious damage to livestock or crops.

This legislation does not mention any special protection for the leisure industry, but unfortunately it is for this purpose that traps are employed. Gamebirds are the "wild bird" population to be "conserved" , for the shooting season, when they are shot for recreation (some may be eaten, but a great many buried in specially-dug pits) in heavy numbers, with not a copse that is not brimming with pens and feeders for this purpose. And consequently, the crows and magpies come too. So they are trapped. When one is captured, it is held in a half of a small cage (see picture) as a "decoy" : the other half is open, but when a fellow bird comes in, the opening slams shut, and when the trap is revisited, the newly-captured bird is dispatched.

By law, the decoy bird must have food, water, shelter, a perch, be able to stretch its wings and must be inspected every 24 hours. Sometimes these laws are obeyed (who knows?) but sometimes not. In a recent survey in Scotland, 40% of caged birds were found to have died, with starvation a common cause. This does not count any dependent young, who would also have died, since trapping overlaps the breeding season. Right to Roam legislation in Scotland meant that cages were often found by walkers, who were appalled and made a fuss, so now they are carefully hidden. In England, they are on land with no right of access, with Swaffham Prior no exception. Why are these birds, our most intelligent birds, not afforded the protection other birds enjoy? Why have Licence Issuers twisted the "conservationist" aims of this hateful legislation for a leisure industry? Surely this is a vile and unnecessary practice and must bring shame on this country.

Larsen traps were invented by a Danish gamekeeper in the 1950s, but are now illegal in Denmark..