Animal Aid

Shooting lobby group joins Animal Aid in condemning intensive bird farms

Posted 31 January 2005


As a direct result of disturbing evidence supplied by Animal Aid to the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the industry lobby group has condemned publicly an especially punishing type of intensive breeding unit for pheasants.

Every year in Britain, about 35 million pheasants are purpose-bred for 'sport shooting'. They are reared in a variety of sheds, pens and boxes. With more and more birds produced annually - as a result of the demand by shooters for 'big bags' - intensification of production has become increasingly extreme.

The breeding box evidence supplied to BASC was filmed by Animal Aid undercover investigators at a pheasant production operation in Powys Mid-Wales.* The complex consists of row upon row of small metal and wire mesh boxes that are open to the elements. Incarcerated within each were one cock pheasant and six or seven females. The majority had been feather-pecked or trampled by stressed cage mates, some so severely that their backs and necks were raw and bloody. This was despite all of them having been fitted with oppressive 'anti-aggression' face masks. The area covered totalled at least two acres, or the equivalent of two football fields.

Pheasant rearing pens in Wales

The newly-condemned units are now used by the country's top half dozen producers, who between them supply around 25% of all birds delivered annually to shooting estates.

Said Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler:

"These barbaric systems are currently permitted by the game farmers' own industry Code of Practice, which the government seems set on rubber stamping in the new Animal Welfare Bill. Pheasant shooting is all about killing purpose-bred animals for pleasure. With increasing numbers produced every year, the industry is resorting to methods of high-throughput production that appal even its own lobby group. Our opposition to such practises - and to 'game' bird killing in general - is more than vindicated, in our view, by this unprecedented and welcome public statement by the BASC. We now ask the BASC to tell producers using such systems to immediately dismantle them. In the interim, shooting estates should be told to buy not one bird from such units."

Animal Aid has produced five major exposés of the pheasant killing industry since September 2000. It is calling for a Dutch-style ban on the breeding of birds for shooting.

*Our evidence was gathered at Bettws Hall, operated by G&A Leisure Ltd, located at Bettws Cedewain, Powys, Wales.

Notes to Editors

Shed 'dead list'
  • Every year in Britain, around 35 million pheasants are mass-produced like commercial poultry so that they can be shot down by wealthy 'guns', who commonly pay £1,000 per day for the 'privilege'. In an effort to eliminate the bird-on-bird aggression caused by the crowded conditions in the breeding units, rearing sheds and release pens, gamekeepers fit the pheasants with various devices. These restrict their vision and prevent them from pecking at their cagemates. They even have the ends of their beaks burnt or sliced off.

  • Large numbers of pheasants inevitably attract - and, in fact, boost the populations of - predator species such as stoats, weasels, foxes and members of the crow family. Gamekeepers deliberately kill them by setting traps and snares. But species ranging from badgers to cats and dogs - even protected birds of prey like owls and kestrels - are caught and killed. Millions of animals are slaughtered every year in these 'predator control' programmes.

  • Because of the enfeeblement that results from being reared in sheds, around half of the pheasants die before they can be gunned down. They perish from exposure, starvation, disease, predation, or under the wheels of motor vehicles. And given that a small group of shooters can kill up to 500 birds a day, many of the victims are not actually eaten. According to an editorial in Country Life magazine (February 1, 2001) some of the 'surplus' is buried in specially dug holes.

  • Added to these casualties are the numerous unretrieved birds who die slowly from their gunshot wounds, out of sight of the guns.

  • For further background see the pheasant shooting section.

  • For more information phone 01732 364546.

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

  • We can supply images of the condemned units in jpeg format.

Pheasant with mask

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