A Gin Trap

Controlling pests and vermin has always been something that farmers have done. These days we usually seek to despatch creatures with a degree of humanity. The end should be quick and should avoid animal suffering. In times past this was not always the case. All sorts of devices were used to trap creatures which then caused them much agony and a slow, lingering death. Such a device was the gin trap.

A gin trap at Market Lavington Museum

A gin trap at Market Lavington Museum

This one, which we have at Market Lavington museum, is typical, albeit a bit battered. It dates from around 1900 and could have had about 60 years of usage. These traps were made illegal in 1958, having once been the standard tool for trapping.

The thing that made these unpleasant was that they trapped an animal by catching and crushing a leg. The animal was not killed instantly and they suffered. There’s an excellent site, by a collector of gin traps at http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/andyspatch/gintraps.htm . This gives all the technical details of how they worked but basically, when an animal stepped on the metal plate the jaws snapped shut around that leg. Nasty! But as we have said before, we have to forgive people in the past for doing what we might now perceive as wrong. The aim was to maximise food production for we humans when rabbits decimated some food crops. The word decimated actually means taking one tenth which may be about what rabbits did.

We have three gin traps at Market Lavington Museum. It would need to be something very special to make us want any more.


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