The term ‘humane traps’ stems from a trade agreement created between Canada, Russia and the European Union following advocacy that showed the cruelty and inherently inhumane reality of trapping of fur-bearing animals.
The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS) was signed by all three parties (the United States has a separate but similar agreement) and outlines what denotes ‘humane traps’. Ironically, the term ‘humane’ is never defined.
Humane traps, however, are defined by whether they meet thresholds set out in the agreement. For example,
“A restraining trapping method would meet the Standards if:
(a) the number of specimens of the same target species from which the data are derived is at least 20; and
(b) at least 80 % of these animals show none of the indicators listed in paragraphs 2.3.1 and 2.3.2.”
That means that 20% of the time (in ideal testing settings) animals can have the ‘indicators’, which include:
- joint luxation proximal to the carpus or tarsus;
- severance of a tendon or ligament;
- major periosteal abraison;
- severe external haemorrhage or haemorrhage into an internal cavity;
- major skeletal muscle degeneration;
- limb ischaemia;
- fracture of a permanent tooth exposing pulp cavity;
- ocular damage including corneal laceration;
- spinal cord injury;
- severe internal organ damage;
- myocardial degeneration;
A similar list exists for so-called killing traps. Snares, which are commonly used by trappers across Canada, are not included in the Agreement.
These ‘indicators’ also do not include the mental and emotional trauma endured by wildlife, the volume of non-target species (unintended species getting caught, injured and/or killed), or people and domestic animals being caught, injured and/or killed.
Holding an animal against their will with a steel trap – despite minor improvements like rubber lining or swivels on anchors – will always be inhumane. No trade agreement can change that.