Stormont has 'no plans' to ban 'cruel' animal snares
There are "no plans" in Northern Ireland for an outright ban on animal snares despite pressure from welfare groups, a Stormont minister has said.
The news comes ahead of a meeting to be attended by officials from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) on Thursday.
Free-running snares remain a legal means of capturing pest animals under the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985.
They are meant to be inspected once every 24 hours, and animals released.
The Snares Order regulation was delayed in 2015, but Economy Minister Simon Hamilton told Stormont earlier this week that Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen has "no plans to ban snares" despite public pressure.
The Snares Order would add additional measures such as a safety stop, to prevent strangulation of the animal.
There would also be restrictions on where, and how, they could be set.
A 2015 Ipsos Mori poll revealed that 74% of those surveyed in Northern Ireland think snares should be banned.
A DAERA spokesman said the Snares Order would be discussed at the meeting on Thursday.
"It must then be considered and voted on by the Assembly. If approval is given then it is anticipated the Order will be operational by early next year," he said.
However, animal welfare groups and some politicians say the measures do not go far enough.
Janice Watt, a spokesperson for League Against Cruel Sports said: "This box-ticking exercise will not stop wildlife and pets being maimed, or prevent agonising, drawn-out deaths from snares.
"Northern Ireland has the opportunity to be the UK leader on wild animal welfare by banning these incredibly cruel and completely indiscriminate traps."
The devices intend to regulate wildlife by trapping animals for humane killing, however, animals such as deer, badgers and even family pets can become trapped.
The nature of the wire snares means that caught animals are often maimed or severely injured by traps.
The Alliance Party is calling for a total ban of snares.
Chris Lyttle said in May: "Last year, Belfast City Council backed an Alliance motion calling for the selling of snares for capturing or killing animals to be made illegal. This is in addition to around three-quarters of people in Northern Ireland backing a ban.
"A total ban on snares is the only humane option available in this matter."