Animal Aid

ANTI-CRUELTY LESSON FOR ROYAL PRINCES

Posted 30 September 2003
pheasant playing card image

The Royal princes, William and Harry, have each been sent a gift of a new pack of specially-designed playing cards, whose illustrations reveal the sordid reality of pheasant rearing and shooting.

Produced by national campaign group, Animal Aid, the offering to the Queen's grandchildren is made to mark the start, on October 1, of the new shooting season. It is hoped that the cards will help undo the conditioning they have received from their bloodsport enthusiast father and persuade them to give up slaughtering the intensively reared birds.

Prince Charles himself makes an appearance in the pack of cards. The King card features a servant holding a bird by his spread wings and declaring to a large-eared individual, who is seen from the rear: "Ready for your shot, Sir." A butler carrying a tray of drinks is also in view. The princes' grandmother is featured on the Queen card. Dressed in a wax jacket and headscarf topped by a crown, she is seen strangling a pheasant - "putting him out of his misery".

The other playing cards also use unsparing wit to reveal the gross nature of pheasant production and shooting - or they show those involved having the tables turned on them. The Number Seven card depicts a tractor shovelling shot birds into a specially dug hole. The caption reads: "Some birds are shot and buried". The Number Five card is captioned: "Reluctant to fly into the line of fire", and depicts beaters throwing newly-released birds up into the sky.

Accompanying the princes' gift pack of cards was a full background briefing. This included earlier Animal Aid reports on pheasant shooting. A similar pack is being sent to MPs and numerous public figures. The general public can purchase their own playing cards, priced at £4 per pack, via Animal Aid's website (www.animalaid.org.uk) or direct from the group's Tonbridge, Kent national office.

The briefing sheet accompanying each pack explains that, rather than 'harvesting' a natural resource, pheasants are mass produced inside hatcheries and rearing sheds. From the sheds, they are moved to fattening pens before being released to serve as feathered targets for shooters who are often charged a day-rate of more than £1,000. Every year in Britain, this is the fate of some 35 million pheasants. The pro-'country sports' newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, itself acknowledged (December 7, 2002) that the shooting of these birds is 'done largely or solely for pleasure'.

Said Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler:

"The princes have been taught that killing animals for fun is noble and sophisticated. In fact, shooting these shed-reared birds is cowardly and pathetic. We hope that it is not too late for William and Harry to develop more civilised habits. We are sure they will find the cards both entertaining and educational."

The entire pack of cards can be viewed online here. Images can be emailed on request.

Notes to Editors

  • Even before they become target practice, the birds suffer serious abuse. In an effort to eliminate aggression caused by the crowded conditions in the sheds and pens, the pheasants are subjected to painful restraints and mutilations. These include beaks partially amputated with a red-hot blade and blinker-like 'spectacles' clipped into the nostrils.

  • Because of the enfeeblement that results from being reared in sheds, many of the released pheasants die before they can be gunned down. They perish from exposure, starvation, disease, predation, or under the wheels of motor vehicles. And many of the birds who are shot are not actually eaten. According to Country Life magazine (February 1, 2001), some of the 'surplus' are buried in specially dug holes.

  • The excesses of the pheasant industry go further still. Animal Aid has documented how shooting estates annually kill large numbers of wild birds and mammals with snares, poison and body-crushing traps in predator control programmes. Gamekeepers deliberately target foxes, stoats and weasels, because these animals are attracted to the unnaturally large number of semi-domesticated pheasants. But species ranging from badgers to cats - even protected birds of prey such as owls and kestrels - are caught and killed.

  • Animal Aid has also produced evidence that some in the industry are depriving the public purse of business rates, VAT payments and game licence fees. This is done, in part, by taking advantage of widespread confusion within different government departments as to whether pheasant rearing and shooting are agricultural or sporting activities. Local planning laws are also open to exploitation, with large-scale shooting enterprises being developed on agricultural land without planning permission.

  • For more information, call Andrew Tyler or Ajaye Curry on 01732 364 546.

  • For background information on the pheasant industry click here.

  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast-quality interviews.

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