Scotland has a strong track record of leading the way on animal welfare in the UK but recently the Welsh Senedd pipped us at the post by banning snares.

A snare is a thin length of looped wire that captures foxes and other animals mainly by the throat. It is primitive, cruel and indiscriminate. The idea behind their use is that the fox quietly waits for the person who set it to come along up to 24 hours later and kill it with a shotgun.

That’s the idea, but it’s very clear that animals caught in snares just don’t wait quietly to be shot. Juvenile foxes have been recorded snared by their abdomens with horrific injuries. It’s so common for badgers to be caught in snares that there’s a name for the ring of earth scorched by a snared badger’s struggles – it’s called a “doughnut”.

Because they are set and left, like landmines, anything can get caught and this includes many cats and dogs. It’s also not unusual to lure animals into these primitive devices by placing them in a ring around a “stink pit” – a mound of rotting dead animals, many of which themselves will have been victims of snares.

We may have been pipped to the post but an opportunity exists for the Scottish Parliament to ban the use of these primitive, cruel and indiscriminate devises within months. The Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill is in its first parliamentary stage right now. The Government have said that they will announce what they plan to do about snares at Stage 2 of the bill which will probably be in the autumn.

But why are snares used at all? In Scotland, where somewhere around one million hectares of land is managed for grouse shooting, they are part of an enormous array of weaponry aimed at any animal that is thought to endanger the grouse. If wild populations of grouse are to withstand the annual fusillade of “sporting” guns taking them out of the sky then their numbers have to be artificially increased by “grouse moor management”.

Scotland’s moors are entirely man-made environments. The lack of trees on most grouse moors isn’t down to the weather or the altitude, it’s because the land is regularly burned to make it more hospitable to grouse. There is an absence of foxes, stoats, weasels, crows and any other animal that is thought to reduce grouse numbers.

When the League Against Cruel Sports undertook a 14-month survey of seven shooting estates and handed over the data to the recently retired head of zoology at Bristol University he calculated that more than 200,000 animals were being killed in Scotland each year. Worryingly, the data also showed that 40% of the animals found in traps and snares didn’t threaten grouse or any other ground-nesting bird.

Wherever you stand on the ethics of killing an animal for sport now is the time to think about the ethics of killing hundreds of thousands of other animals to ensure an over-abundance of grouse to shoot for sport.

Robbie Marsland is director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland