Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS)
In 1995, the European Union passed a progressive ban on the use of leg-hold traps in all its member countries, as well as a ban on fur from any country still using leg-hold traps. In response, Canada threatened the EU with economic punishments under GATT and the WTO.
Sadly, the EU conceded and exempted Canada from their ban when Canada, the USA and Russia instead proposed “The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards” (AIHTS). This agreement was based on the commitment to develop and use only “humane” traps, and with the understanding that the agreement would lead to the eventual banning of the leg-hold trap. What it did instead was put an official ‘humane’ seal of approval on business-as-usual and provided the fur industry with a sound bite about their commitment to ‘humaneness’ while changing very little about the actual practices. This exercise in deception exists entirely because the majority of the Canadian and international public are not comfortable with, or supportive of, the trapping of animals.
The standards apply to 12 animals routinely killed for fur (beaver, muskrat, otter, weasel, marten, fisher, raccoon, badger, coyote, wolf, lynx and bobcat). Noticeably missing from the agreement are minks, foxes, and wolverines. Although the steel jaw leg-hold trap is no longer permitted, superficially altered versions of the trap remain the standard. This is contrary to the entire purpose of the agreement, which was to ban the leg-hold trap entirely. As it stands, the same traps that have been used for 40 years are still allowed, including snares, which are considered extremely inhumane even by moderate groups like the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS).
Drowning sets may still use the conventional leg-hold trap, and since 60% of the animals killed for fur in Canada are semi-aquatic, the agreement technically does nothing for the majority of the animals killed in Canada. Additionally, the agreement falls short in providing basic welfare guarantees for all trapped animals.
The agreement states that for restraining traps (leg-hold traps):
- 80% of animals must “not show any signs of poor welfare” (“poor welfare” means no self-mutilation, excessive immobility, fractures, severance of tendon or ligament, severe external haemorrhage, internal haemorrhage, skeletal muscle degeneration, spinal cord injury, severe internal organ damage, amputation and death). This is impossible to verify as accurate in the wild, as the nature of trapping makes it almost impossible for enforcement officers to ensure animals aren’t suffering in the above-mentioned ways. This is especially true given that traps are not selective.
- Since only 80% of the animals even have to be ‘protected’ on paper, this means that of the 47,340 coyotes trapped for their fur in 2009, under the AIHTS agreement, 9,468 of them are even ‘allowed’ to show signs of ‘poor welfare’.
The agreement states that for killing traps (Conibear, drowning sets):
- The following times between trapping and loss of consciousness or death are required for 80% of trapped animals: 45 seconds for ermines; 2 minutes for martens; 5 minutes for all other species. This is a completely unenforceable standard in the wild.
- Since only 80% of animals have to be ‘protected’ on paper, this means that 20% of all animals, under the AIHTS, are ‘allowed’ to suffer excrutiating pain as they wait to die. Some species take a particularly long time to drown. For example, for beavers it can take up to 20 minutes.
- The CFHS finds these numbers troubling too. They note that “[t]he standard for the time between trapping and loss of consciousness or death for killing traps has not been decreased as was originally intended” in the AIHTS agreement.
The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies notes additional concerns, including:
- “Restraining traps leave an animal to suffer great stress and pain, and ideally standards would prevent an animal from suffering in this way”.
- “Killing traps should cause instant death but the Agreement permits some animals to struggle for up to five minutes – and 20% are permitted to exceed that time”.
- “Although the steel jaw leghold trap is outlawed in Canada, other leghold traps that cause suffering are still widely used“.
- “Foxes and mink are not included in the agreement”.
- “Traps classified as inhumane can still be used while research is ongoing, which means their use can continue indefinitely“.
- “Snares, which are very inhumane, are still permitted”.
These small measures are merely superficial tweaks to an inherently inhumane and violent practice.