FEATHERING THEIR NESTS - In conclusion
Animal Aid has shown in this report that the pheasant rearing and shooting industry is depriving the public purse of millions of pounds annually in business rates, VAT payments and game licence fees. This is achieved by exploiting the widespread confusion within different government departments as to whether the industry is part of agriculture or a 'sporting' activity.
Local planning laws are also exploited, with large-scale enterprises developed without planning permission. And because of the official confusion about whether shooting is sport or agriculture, not even the meagre animal protection measures that are supposed to govern the production of poultry apply to the rearing of pheasants. The main protection for the intensively-reared birds is no more than a voluntary industry code.
A recent newspaper report ('Shooting is the new golf', Sunday Times, 8 September, 2002) charted the growth in the amount of land now claimed by modern commercial pheasant shooting. During the past year, a spokesman for the Country Land and Business Association told the newspaper, there had been a national increase of more than 15 per cent in the land on which shooting rights have been sold, with 'much higher' growth in Devon and Norfolk. The BASC was reported as claiming that 30% of the whole of Cheshire is now managed for shooting.
As well as depriving the public purse of important revenue, this elitist industry also receives handsome public subsidies. The Sunday Times article reported that, under the Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme, £8 is paid per 10-metre strip of 'cover crops' - planted so that the birds can hide within them when not being beaten into the sky and shot down for pleasure. Other CS money is available to shooting estates.
In addition, a £150,000 government grant has been promised by DEFRA to help market the pheasant meat that those who shoot the birds don't want to eat themselves.
Animal Aid believes that pheasant rearing and shooting is an intrinsically grotesque, destructive and dishonest activity that needs to be properly regulated and curbed, rather than fattened with yet more public money.
Animal Aid urges the government to implement the following recommendations:
- Introduce a consistent approach across all government departments in the application of taxation to a 'sport' which is essentially part of the leisure industry.
- Apply disciplined procedures of planning application and consent to all development and infrastructure that is intended for commercial shooting on agricultural land.
- Value for rating purposes, the acreage, buildings and structures in use for commercial shooting on agricultural land. This valuation should be made on a pro-rata basis alongside the land's agricultural use. The valuation would take into account the financial turnover and attendance for each use.
- All birds, fish or animals bred and reared for a sporting purpose should be standard-rated for VAT. The Customs and Excise guidance should be amended to read: "Any bird, fish or animal commonly considered edible in the United Kingdom, and released for a sporting purpose before slaughter, is standard-rated for VAT."
- Game Excise Licensing must be enforced and fees regularly reviewed and maintained at a level commensurate with the wealth and style of game shooting participants.
- Recognise that agricultural subsidy is not appropriate for land maintained for game shooting purposes. Subsidising the upkeep of wealthy shooting businesses, it should be accepted, is not the responsibility of the British taxpayer. Agricultural subsidies should be forfeited on all land turned over for sport and game shooting.
Since our campaign against the pheasant rearing and shooting industry began in September 2000, we have produced four major reports into the pheasant shooting industry - see the pheasant shooting index for links to all the reports.