Sector

23 August 2021

The elephant in the glue trap

ANIMAL WELFARE | PPC104 AUGUST 2021

The attack on glue boards and the Government’s Animal Welfare Action Plan represent a direct risk to our pest management toolkit.

PPC Editor Scott Johnstone looks at the motivations behind reforms and speculates how the industry might have to adapt.

Attitudes to animal welfare and the impact on pest management toolkits BPCA PPC magazine

SPEED VIEW: 

  • Those championing animal welfare are intelligent, academic, organised, and well-financed
  • Animal welfare reforms are an easy win with voters; detract from slow progress of Brexit trade deals
  • Changing attitudes to how we interact with animals will play an increasing role in our work
  • To protect our toolkit, we will need to consider animal welfare impacts as much as environmental impact.

Traditionally we’ve thought of our impact on the environment as the most significant risk to our toolkit.

While challenges to our chemical arsenal will always be present, professional pest management has adapted well.

Rodenticides stewardship, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and environmental risk assessments should be a part of every pest company’s thought processes in 2021.

But there’s another significant threat to our toolkit only half a step away from environmental impact – our elephant in the room.

Animal welfare reform is popular

It’s been easy to attribute this threat to ‘antis’, the ‘woke left’, ‘radical vegans’, ‘wildlife nuts’, and ‘snowflake-zenialls trying to do me out of a job’.

However, the reality is that those who are championing the animal welfare agenda are intelligent, academic, organised and well-financed.

Two years ago, the challenge to bird licences was fronted by Chris Packham et al, but behind them stood hundred-of-thousands of people ready to sign petitions and fund the legal battles.

The government ban on glue boards is backed by Lord Goldsmith, the Conservative Minister of State for Pacific and the Environment.

He said: “Glue traps cause slow and unimaginably painful deaths and there is no way of preventing other types of animals being caught by them, so I am delighted we are able to back Jane Stevenson MP’s important Private Member’s Bill today. We will do all we can to help her get this new law onto the statute books.”

It’s not usual for a government department such as Defra and a prominent minister to back a Private Members’ Bill. However, as the legislation synergises with the Animal Welfare Action Plan, it’s been given Government’s full support.

Multiple petitions on glue boards have over 100,000 signatures signed by members of the public. High-profile organisations such as the RSPCA and British Veterinary Association have supported the ban.

In a 2015 YouGov poll of 2,000 people, 68% agree glue traps should be banned in the UK. If you don’t support the ban on glue boards then you’re in the minority.

Animal welfare, in general, gets mainstream support; we’re a nation of animal lovers. I’ve never met an animal-hating pest professional.

Scott Johnstone, BPCA Marketing Manager

It’s easy to see why.

Glue boards, even when used properly, are a stomach-churning tool. Factor in images of robins, cats and hedgehogs stuck on the devices, and any rational argument about public health is lost to the stronger emotional response.

Animal welfare, in general, gets mainstream support; we’re a nation of animal lovers. I’ve never met an animal-hating pest professional.

The vast majority of the plan could be backed by anyone, regardless of political belief. That’s the point of it.

Brexit means bans

George Eustice states in the foreword to the plan:

“Our departure from the EU has provided an opportunity to do things better. We can take action to ban live exports of animals for slaughter and fattening, take forward legislation on puppy smuggling and, now we are an independent trading nation and have regained our own voice on wildlife conventions, world forums and organisations, we can take a more assertive role on the world stage.”

With such universal appeal, there’s no doubt that animal welfare reforms are considered an easy win with voters and detract from the slow progress of post-Brexit trade deals with a good news story.

elephant-in-the-glue-trap 2

Not a change, but a sign of change

Glue boards are not the only warning flag for the sector. The challenge to using lead shot and snares might certainly affect our work, but there are more significant objections we need to plan for.

Here’s a direct quote from the action plan:

“At the heart of our reform programme is our commitment to recognise in law the sentience of animals. [...] Explicitly recognising and enshrining animals as sentient beings in law will be at the very heart of central government decision making going forward.”

Stricter enforcement of wildlife crime is undoubtedly a welcome addition to the plan. We’ve always thought that better enforcement of wildlife crimes would negate the need for any additional legislation around pest management toolkits.

As an aside, in the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission’s report on the use of rodent glue traps, they write: “The labelling of target species as ‘pests’ in this context should be discouraged in the future.

“At the heart of our reform programme is our commitment to recognise in law the sentience of animals. [...] Explicitly recognising and enshrining animals as sentient beings in law will be at the very heart of central government decision making going forward.”

Animal Welfare Action Plan

It is important to recognise that ‘pest’ animals have the potential to suffer to the same extent as other sentient ‘non-pest’ species.

In considering all ‘pest’ control methods, the Commission would like to see these ethical considerations higher up the agenda and explicitly addressed in all future discussions.”

Animal sentience and distaste at the word “pest” hint at a significant attitude change.

And it won’t stop with mammals. You might laugh at a customer’s request to relocate a wasp nest now, but I’d be willing to bet that invertebrate empathy increases over the next decade and requests for this service increase.

Public health and well-being

Animal welfare has the potential to impact your toolkit just as much as environmental concerns. Your customers care (and if they don’t right now, they will over the coming years).

Glue traps are just the beginning because any layman can see conflicts with animal welfare - particularly when they’re misused. But snares, rodenticides and snap traps all have animal welfare implications.

To protect our toolkit, pest professionals will need to consider our animal welfare impacts as much as our environmental impact.

As with all our work, it’ll be about balancing the risk to public health, the risk of damaging our environment, the risk of harming non-target species and the risk of causing suffering to target species.

If you’ve already got a standing item for environmental risk on your team meeting agenda - great. But maybe it’s time to add ‘animal welfare’ too?

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK OF THE PLANS

Are you concerned about the Animal Welfare Action Plan? Do you think it's a step in the right direction? 

Let us know and we might print your thoughts in the next issue of PPC magazine.

hello@bpca.org.uk

Source: PPC104

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