Animal Aid

Fowl Play - The ban on pheasant production in Holland

It is these issues of animal welfare and negative environmental impacts that led to the ban on the production of birds in Holland for 'sport shooting'. There is no hunting with horses and hounds in the Netherlands and shooting game with a shotgun is called hunting.

In the 1980s, Dierenbescherming Nederland (The Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals) commissioned opinion polls to test public support for a ban on the release of 'game' for hunting. As well as concern for animal welfare, the polls revealed considerable disquiet over the potential for damage to the environment by large releases of pheasants. More than half of the land area of the Netherlands is agricultural and damage to crops and to the general agricultural environment is a major issue. Dutch ideas about such questions run directly counter to how the British shooting industry strives to connect shooting with conservation.

Pheasant shooters

No hunting, no predator 'control'

In 1986, legislation was introduced in Holland curbing the release of pheasants for hunting - a statute that has been superseded by the Netherlands Flora and Fauna Act of 2002. The initial law made it permissible to breed and release pheasants to replace any who had been destroyed by agricultural activity (such as the destruction of nests during mowing). Under the 2002 statute, which followed years of national debate, even that exception is disallowed. It is not forbidden to breed pheasants or keep them as pets, but any pheasants reared for food must be 'humanely' slaughtered and/or sold to a poulterer.

Today, the hunting of five species is permitted: wild hare, pheasant, mallard, pigeon and rabbit. The breeding and release of live quarry is forbidden.

All netting, trapping and snaring of predator animals is also prohibited in Holland, except for the live trapping of crows, using cages and reared decoys.

The Dutch recognise that predation is a natural phenomenon, and do not allow unnatural releases of prey species to create an imbalance. Consequently, there is no scope to claim that the destruction of artificially engendered predators is contributing to conservation or biodiversity.

Weasel in trap

Licensing hunters

Every year, the Netherlands issues 30,000 hunting licences. Applicants must be 18 years or over and first prove their competence in an examination. Similar tests are conducted in Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. The education of hunters was started on a voluntary basis in the 1960s and, through the Dutch Game Act of 1977, the examination became compulsory.

Applicants must, additionally, hold an insurance voucher covering third party risk to a minimum value of £6million. In this regard, the Dutch prescribe safety zones for the public. The hunting ground must be on private land and be no less than 40 hectares (99 acres). The land must have a minimum width of 300 metres.


We have seen in this report that, while the pheasant killing industry seeks to promote the notion of noble tradition and countryside custodianship, there is very little that is natural about the modern game production and shooting industry.

Millions of birds are intensively reared every year in order to satisfy the base appetites of wealthy 'guns' who often show little appetite for their quarry once they have brought it down.

Downed pheasant

There is no obligation upon these guns to undergo any training and it is not uncommon for the 'marksmen' to be nine or ten years old. Even after they have been released, the birds continue to be fed so that they remain in the vicinity of the estate and at the disposal of the guns on successive shooting days. It is, in short, a ruthless, cynical 'game' in which the birds are made dependent on their keepers for food and shelter and are then betrayed by those same individuals.

Going Dutch

Animal Aid is firmly of the view that the introduction of a pheasant rearing and shooting Code of Conduct, based on the industry's own guidance, is not the way forward. We, instead, urge the government to introduce a total ban on the production of pheasants and other birds for 'sport shooting'. Such a ban already operates successfully in the Netherlands.

This concludes Fowl Play. For further information on pheasant shooting, and the latest news on this campaign, please see the pheasant shooting index.


  1. Farm Animal Welfare Council 1997. Report on the Welfare of Laying
    Hens, p16
  2. Game Conservancy 1990. Game bird Rearing, p 85
  3. Daily Telegraph, Letters, 12 March, 2004
  4. Daily Telegraph, Letters, 16 March, 2004
  5. Tapper, S. 1992. Game Heritage: An Ecological Review from Shooting And Gamekeeping Records. Game Conservancy Ltd
  6. Royal Society For The Protection Of Birds 2002. Birdcrime 2001
  7. Rufus Sage - Game Conservancy Trust. BBC R4, 29 September 2003
  8. The Times, Letters, Eric Sylvester. August 12, 2004
  9. Cobham Resource Consultants 1983. Countryside Sports: Their
    Economic Significance. Standing Conference on Countryside Sports
Dead pheasant

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