Animal Aid

Assault and Battery - Battery Cages: Hy-Fly Game

Hy-Fly Game,Hy-Fly Game Hatcheries,Pilling Lane,Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancs,FY6 0HH

Hy-Fly Game is owned by Ray Holden, a member of the executive council of the Game Farmers' Association. Holden is also a columnist with Shooting Gazette. Hy-Fly has around 3,840 barren cages for partridge pairs. It also operates 100 barren cages for pheasants, each containing one cock and eight hens.

Filmed: April 30 and again June 1, 2005

First visit:

Some pheasants have been feather-pecked on their backs. Others have also lost their flight feathers. Several are leaping at their cage roofs.

A number of partridges are shoving their heads through the narrow aperture at the bottom of their cages where the eggs roll out onto a pan for collection.

Second visit:

More pheasants are leaping and driving their heads into the mesh roof.They are looking considerably thinner than when first filmed. Several have drooping wings and their backs are stripped of feathers. An uncollected dead bird is filmed in a cage.

The beaks of both male and female pheasants are fitted with a large flat, looped ring that appears to be plugged into the nostrils.

Whereas, on the earlier visit several partridges were pushing their heads through the gap where the eggs roll out, this time we find numerous uncollected dead partridges lying in the pans.We film a dozen - to the left and right - going up the 'lane' between two rows. Bearing in mind that biosecurity rules demand the prompt collection of dead animals, evidence of such an attrition rate during our short visit is alarming.

Battery Cages: G&A Leisure ,Bettws Hall Hatcheries,Bettws Hall,Bettws Cedewain, Powys,SY16 3DS

Bettws Hall - part of G&A Leisure - is run by Gwyn and Anne Evans. Gwyn Evans is a member of the GFA's executive council.The business is advertised on the BASC website trade directory.

There are 1660 barren cages for pheasants - measuring 1.93m x 1.52m x 46cm deep. Each contains eight hens and a cock.The cages cover about two acres of ground. The development has been created without planning consent and is currently the subject of a retrospective application lodged with Powys County Council.

Bettws Hall was the focus of Animal Aid's original investigation into barren cages, and it was the images of Evans' birds - highly-agitated, damaged and fitted with masks that penetrated the nasal septum - that sparked the current industry debate. Gwyn Evans denied to the press that the film was shot at his farm. He further claimed that, 'They [Animal Aid] are extremists who don't understand the ways of the countryside'.

Filmed: April 29 and again June 2, 2005

First visit:

The nasal septum penetrating masks are no longer evident.Two other types are in use - a large and cumbersome black plastic device covering most of the front of the head and, a flat black ring that fits into the nostrils.

Numerous birds are making desperate lunges at the roof. Some are wearing large dressings on their backs to protect wounds caused by feather-pecking, or by being trampled by the male.There is the melancholy sight of an escapee male hobbling on top of the cages, one foot clenched tight and all his tail feathers missing. His chances of survival, even if he were able to fly off, are remote.

Second visit:

Many of the cages previously occupied are now empty. Does this signify a retraction of the business, or a high level of mortality? The birds are in far poorer condition than in April and are greatly agitated. More are also wounded and missing feathers on their backs, chests and tails. Some are bloodied.They are wearing the same masks as on the April visit.

Background on g & A leisure

Gwyn and Anne Evans have been in the 'game' industry since the late 1980s but have completed a massive expansion since 2000. Trading as G & A Leisure Ltd, they have developed a hotel and restaurant at Bettws Hall with its 2,000 acres of shoot. Shooting with G & A is also available over the border in Shropshire - at Delbury and Kempton. The company, additionally, owns the Brigands Hotel and the 10,000 acre shoot near Machynlleth.This year, in the shooting press, it was reported that G & A acquired the prestigious Molland Shoots near South Molton in North Devon.

An American agency, Chris Batha of South Carolina, offers shooting jaunts on behalf of G & A, to groups of eight guns.The cost is $11,840 per person, with 300 bird-targets provided on each of four days.

In addition to the acres of battery cages, Bettws Hall has an incubator house and three large rearing sheds, each as long as a football field.

BASC claims to be unequivocally opposed to battery cage breeding of game birds, stating that such systems are incompatible with its values and with the future of game shooting.Yet it allows G & A to advertise Bettws Hall on BASC's website trade directory. Furthermore, although it was advised by Animal Aid that the barren cages had been developed at Bettws Hall without planning approval, BASC declined to oppose the retrospective planning application.

Battery Cages: Heart of England Farms, Henley Road,Claverdon,Warwick,CV35 8PP

Heart of England is operated by Ole Gronning. He uses battery cages to confine both egg-laying pheasants and partridges. Some of the pheasant cages were part-constructed with plywood rather than being all-metal. More significantly, the mesh roofs were hard and rigid, resulting in substantial head injuries when the birds repeatedly leapt upwards in their attempts to escape.The condition of some of the Heart of England Birds was the worst of all those Animal Aid filmed.

Filmed: June 12, 2005

The majority of the pheasants in the metal cages are fitted with one of two types of mask - one that curves down over the face; the other, a thick, black plastic device. However, one of the birds we film has been forced to wear the face mask that is attached by driving a pin through the nasal septum. Most of the females and many of the males are suffering extensive feather loss, while around three in ten females are wearing wound dressings on their back. Within the main enclosed area of metal pheasant pens, there is the smaller row of battery units constructed with wood.They are the same size as the metal boxes and hold the same number of birds.The wooden units, with their harsh mesh roofs, cause 'scalping' to the birds' heads when they repeatedly and frantically leap up to escape.We film cage after cage of thin, ravaged birds.We also find evidence of stereotypical (pointless, repetitive) pacing, which is indicative of a major mental disorder. The birds in these wooden battery cages are the most damaged of all those we filmed.

Battery Cages: Pye Hall,Suffolk,IP23 7NJ

Pye Hall Game Farm is owned by Terry Sizer, a member of the GFA's executive council. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation allows Pye Hall to advertise on its website Trade Directory.

Pye Hall was the subject of a 2004 League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) undercover investigation. LACS investigators reportedly found - in the company's rearing sheds - 'overcrowding, cannibalisation and cold indifference to animal suffering'.The farm's customer list is said to have included Madonna and Guy Ritchie. Since the LACS report, Pye Hall has taken delivery of barren cages for breeding partridges.

Filmed: May 31, 2005

The cages for partridges cover an area that is probably the equivalent of two football pitches.The birds are highly agitated and vocal - many are leaping and driving their heads into the hard mesh roofing.Their living space, as usual, is cramped and bare. There are duckboards for workers and muck-filled puddles underneath cages.

Click here for part 4 of Assault and Battery, in which we show how the ancestors of today's factory-farmed birds were ground-nesting woodland animals.

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