How humane is humane?

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Limb amputation, bone and tooth fracture, severe internal organ damage, severing of ligaments and tendons and serious internal or external haemorrhage, are among 14 types of "injuries recognised as indicators of poor welfare in trapped wild animals," according to the international humane trapping standards agreement.

"Self-directed biting, leading to severe injury [self-mutilation], or excessive immobility and unresponsiveness" are also behaviour indicative of poor welfare, says the 31-page treaty.

Eighty per cent of animals caught in restraining traps - intended to keep their victims alive - should show none of these indicators of suffering. If the device fails to meet this standard then the trap should be outlawed. And the way to assess its performance on any of the 19 mammal species covered by the agreement, is to test it on at least 20 animals.

The document also sets standards for "killing traps". For most of the 19 species, the victim animal must fall into the state of "unconsciousness and insensibility" which precedes death, within five minutes of being caught.

Again, to be legal, a trap only has to achieve this 80 per cent of the time. And its ability to confirm to the standard has to be assessed by testing on at least 12 animals. Countries party to the agreement have up to five years in which to bring in these standards.

David Bowles, European Campaigner with the RSPCA, is outraged by this five-minute time limit - he says it is far too long. He also condemns the agreement for legalising traps which fail to meet the standards 20 per cent of the time.

"It would be good to have a universal agreement on humane trapping standards, but this certainly isn't it," he says. "The standards are far too lax and the European Commission has given in too much to Canada."