Facts & Reports
The main trapping nations are the USA, Russia and Canada.
Information about the exact numbers and the types of animals being trapped is very hard to get hold of from the two larger trapping nations – USA and Russia - although Canada does publish annual statistics.
One of the most commonly used traps used to catch animals for their fur is the steel-jawed leghold trap - a device so cruel that its use has been banned throughout Europe. In fact it was outlawed in England and Wales in 1958 by the Pests Act (1954) and Scotland followed suit a little later.
The legal ban was introduced following the publication in 1951 of the Scott-Henderson report on cruelty to wild animals that described the gin trap - a version of the leghold trap used in the UK at the time - as ‘a diabolical instrument which causes an incalculable amount of suffering'.
When the steel jaws of the leghold trap slam shut on the victim's leg (an action similar to slamming one's hand in a car door) injuries such as torn flesh and broken bones are often inflicted. Animals then often go to great lengths to escape, some even chewing or wearing through their trapped limbs.
The two other common trapping methods used are the conibear (invented by trapper Frank Conibear) and the snare. The conibear trap is sometimes referred to by the fur trade as an ‘instant kill trap' and, indeed, if an animal of the right size enters the traps jaws at the right speed and angle it may be killed quickly. But, like the leghold trap, neither the conibear or the snare can discriminate and all too often animals are held crushed or with severe injuries for hours or even days in indescribable agony.
When a trapper returns to kill a trapped animal a variety of methods are used. Guns are often avoided since bullets cost money and they may damage the animal's fur. Instead, animals are frequently beaten to death or simply stood or stomped on. The following passage appeared in a document called ‘Get set to trap' issued by the California Dept. of Fish and Game:- ‘Two examples of adequate tools are a heavy iron pipe about 18 to 24 inches long, or an axe handle..It is highly recommended that the animal be struck two times, once to render it unconscious and again to render it either dead or comatose. To ensure death, pin the head with one foot and stand on the chest for several minutes.'
As part of the fur trades attempts to allay public concern about the cruelty of trapping and to stave off bans on the use of certain traps, it has funded what it euphemistically calls ‘humane trap research'. One example of this work was an experiment to discover how long it took animals such as beaver, mink and muskrat to drown. Animals were put into traps and simply held underwater whilst their death throws were observed and monitored. The results were horrifying. The ‘average' beaver struggled for 9.5 minutes whilst it was 25 minutes before the heart of one of the animals stopped beating. Even in the face of this clear and appalling evidence, the fur trade still tries to argue that drowning is a humane means of killing an animal.
Some of the more chilling aspects of the trapping industry are to be found in the pages of trapping magazines. Glossy publications such as the ‘American Trapper' which comes out six times a year contain trapping stories, advice and adverts as well as news on their campaigns to defend trapping in the face of public disapproval. Accounts of trapping successes from children as young as twelve are accompanied by advertisements for fox urine (used to lure animals to traps).
As all traps are indescriminate, they are triggered by the first animal unfortunate enough to step into them. Endangered species can be caught as well as pets. Stories of dogs and cats being caught are all too common. Trappers have a name for non-target animals - 'trash'.