Recent cases reveal the horror of the fur trade's trap of choice
The winter has seen several reports of animals suffering terribly in illegal gin traps in the UK, but not enough people realise that this cruel device is currently being used to trap animals in North America- just for their fur.
Gin traps are a type of 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.
In 1863 Charles Darwin said of them: "It is scarcely possible to exaggerate the suffering thus endured from fear, from acute pain, maddened by thirst, and by vain attempts to escape."
As all traps are indiscriminate, 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'.
The last few weeks have seen several cases of animals being caught in these illegal traps in the UK. An unfortunate domestic cat called Ruby suffered in agony for 2 days after being caught in a cruel gin trap in London the other week. Her injuries were so severe that she had to have her leg amputated and her owner made her available for adoption, as she felt she could no longer guarantee her safety in the area.
An RSPCA vet described the poor animal’s condition: “When Ruby came to us she was in extreme shock and distress and her paw was hanging off - it was awful. Her leg was almost completely severed above the wrist so there really was no other alternative but to amputate it. She would have been in an incredible amount of pain.”
This week, the RSPCA and North Yorkshire Police appealed for information after a fox was found with his lower jaw caught in an illegal gin trap in York, causing horrific injuries.
The male fox become entangled in some bushes after spending days in agony with the trap attached to his jaw.
An RSPCA inspector detailed the horror of the injuries inflicted on the poor creature:
“The enormous metal trap was clamped tightly shut around his lower jaw causing horrendous injuries. His jaw was broken and it was literally hanging on by the skin. He was put to sleep to end his suffering.
“Gin traps are indiscriminate – catching family pets as well as wildlife – and cause terrible injuries and suffering, which is why it is illegal to use them. Trapped animals struggle when caught and may succeed in pulling the trap from its anchor only to die later, which is what would have happened here eventually.
It is currently the fur trapping season in North America, where huge numbers of animals are being held in agony for days before suffering a painful death. Trappers often suffocate their victims to protect the market value of the pelt, rather than opt for a quicker method such as shooting, which damages the fur.
Several years ago, Respect for Animals conducted an undercover investigation of fur trapping in the USA which revealed the full extent of the cruelty behind fur trapping. You can watch the footage here.
Given that these traps are illegal in the UK, it should also be illegal to import fur from animals caught in the monstrous devices in other countries. However, fur obtained using these traps is imported to the UK and sold on British high streets. Just one example is the clothing company Canada Goose, which produces coats with fur trims originating from wild coyotes caught in these torturous devices.
It’s time to end the hypocrisy and ban the import of fur. You can help our anti-fur campaign by donating here.