Snares to trap animals will not be banned, Michelle McIlveen says
Northern Ireland's agriculture minister has rejected calls for an outright ban on the use of snares to trap animals.
Michelle McIlveen said there was still a need to protect farm livestock and other wildlife from predators.
She said a new Snares Order would place further restrictions on their use.
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 assembly has already debated at length, and rejected, a complete ban on snares," Ms McIlveen said.
"I feel that these additional safeguards should help to negate the concerns of those opposed to the use of snares, as the additional restrictions are intended to reduce suffering.
"The alternatives are not viable: the use of poison is potentially prohibited, less targeted and more inhumane.
"It is not reasonable to ask landowners to patrol their fields with shotguns at night, when foxes are most active, and it would also be costly and potentially dangerous to allow others to do that work on a large scale on their behalf."
However, Janice Watt, a spokesperson for League Against Cruel Sports, said there were many non-lethal ways for farmers to protect livestock from predators.
"Non-lethal methods can include electric fencing which is incredibly easy to use and not expensive," she said.
Ms Watt said that another option was diversional feeding, where scraps are left out for foxes.
"I should also point out that most foxes live on a diet of rabbits and rodents and are therefore an asset," she said, adding that foxes were not a threat to large, industrial scale poultry farms.
Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle criticised the minister for not bringing a full ban on the use of snares.
"There was hope when the previous environment minister shelved the Snares Order that it might be dropped entirely and followed by a complete ban, so it is disappointing the current minister has confirmed that will not be the case," he said.
"Alliance remains committed to this issue and it is one we will continue to work on until such horrifying cruelty is completely eliminated."
He said he plans to bring a private member's bill on animal cruelty forward in the assembly.
The Snares Order will now be considered and voted on by the Assembly.
It 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.