Animal Aid

AVIAN FLU: CALL FOR IMMEDIATE HALT TO BREEDING, IMPORTING AND RELEASE OF GAME BIRDS

Posted 20 February 2006

Following confirmation that the H5N1 strain of avian flu has now reached France, Animal Aid today calls for an immediate ban on the import of French game bird eggs, chicks and poults. At least half of all the roughly 35 million pheasants and partridges produced and released for shooting every year in Britain originate in France. Breeding is due to start in March and therefore, says the national campaign group, DEFRA must act now to prohibit imports. This is necessary to avert a mass slaughter of British game birds later in the season. As well as a halt on French imports, Animal Aid is calling for an immediate ban on the breeding of British game birds for the 2006/7 shooting season. Breeding ends in August and the four-month partridge shooting season starts September 1 - with pheasant shooting beginning a month later.

Animal Aid does not conceal its opposition to the breeding and releasing of 'game birds' in order that they serve as feathered targets. But the spectre of Avian Flu makes it even more imperative that the breeding and importing of game birds stops immediately. DEFRA has made plans for commercial domestic poultry to be moved indoors in the event that Avian Flu reaches British shores. But until the new poultry register is complete on 28 February, the government has no idea of where game birds are bred and released in Britain. Neither has it given any indication what it intends to do about the breeding and deliberate release of game birds. French and British pheasants are bred outdoors, either in open topped cages or enclosures. During rearing, the hatched chicks are moved from heated sheds to outside enclosures for hardening-off prior to release. There is no indoor way of producing a bird destined to cope in the wild until it is shot. It will make no sense, says Animal Aid, for DEFRA to require the indoor housing of all poultry if it turns its back on the outdoors breeding, rearing and release of game birds. Pheasants are two-thirds the size of a chicken and, when released, will make a significant impact on the wild bird population and multiply the avian and human contagion risk.

Says Animal Aid Shooting Consultant, Kit Davidson:

'Animal Aid has consistently called for an end to the breeding and release of pheasants, partridges and mallard ducks. The government must act immediately to impose just such a ban and thereby reduce any unnecessary suffering for Britain's domestic and wild birds. The calamity and waste of the 2001 Foot and Mouth debacle can be avoided if DEFRA abandons its head-in-the-sand policy and develops a rational game bird strategy. A permanent ban on the production and release of game birds for shooting already exists in Holland in the interests of that country's agricultural industry. 'The background threat of viral mutation and a subsequent human pandemic is just too horrific to contemplate.'

Notes to Editors

  • For full background, see the Pheasant Shooting Index
  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast-quality interviews.
  • Contact: Andrew Tyler or Kit Davidson on 01732 364 546

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