150 land managers have signed a letter urging the Scottish Government to retain the use of humane cable restraints as it considers a ban on the use of traditional snares.

Humane cable restraints are a modern device used predominantly by farmers and gamekeepers to control fox populations in order to protect livestock and other wildlife such as ground-nesting birds.

The consultation on a ban on snaring, which closed on October 3, may lead to the use of humane cable restraints being prohibited via amendments to the Wildlife Management and Muirburn Bill currently making its way to parliament – despite the devices being fully compliant with the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS).

Scottish Land and Estates, the rural business organisation, said claims by the Scottish Government that other forms of predator control such as shooting and trapping were available in every circumstance were ‘demonstrably false’.

Director of moorland at Scottish Land and Estates, Ross Ewing, said: “It is clear that the Scottish Government is on course to ban the use of traditional snares and, whilst we have reservations, we acknowledge that more proficient humane cable restraints are now available for use.

“These much-improved devices are vital in protecting livestock and ground-nesting birds and it is important that the Scottish Government does not rush headlong into a ban as part of its plan to outlaw conventional snares.

“The two devices are completely distinguishable in design and it would be a dreadful blow to conservation and livestock management if the government failed to recognise that.

“The depth of feeling on this matter is demonstrated by the signatories of more than 150 land managers urging Environment Minister Gillian Martin to retain the use of humane cable restraints.

“The Scottish Government has claimed in its consultation that methods of predator control such as snaring and shooting are more efficient and humane but that is demonstrably false.

“It is completely fictitious to state that trapping is more efficient. Of those GWCT live capture traps deployed on 26 Scottish estates managed for driven grouse shooting between 2021 and 2023, none have actually trapped a fox which speaks to their inefficacy. They are by no means a viable replacement for the humane cable restraint.

“Shooting is also simply not an option for safety reasons due to the terrain in many places. Due to woodland expansion, thick cover, topography, access constraints, and other factors – snares and cable restraints are the only wildlife management tools available in practice.

“Both humane cable restraints and live capture traps have met the same humaneness standard under the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS). It would signal a real blow to the conservation of species including black grouse, partridge, lapwing, and curlew if the Scottish Government was to give free rein for the fox population to expand unchecked.”

That view was echoed by Lianne MacLennan, national campaigns manager at Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups, whose members work on a daily basis on moorland estates.

Lianne said: “The gamekeepers and land managers we represent are fearful for the wildlife and biodiversity on their estates if the Scottish Government proceeds with a ban on humane cable restraints.

“Scottish Ministers have a legal duty to further the conservation of biodiversity when carrying out their responsibilities under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. This includes protection of the rich tapestry of birds and species that are found on moorland estates and are detailed on the official Scottish Biodiversity List.

“If the government chooses to ignore the warnings of those on the ground then Scotland’s nature will be paying the price for decades to come.”