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Animal rights groups turn their sights on to game shooting
Posted 1 November 2004
This article from The Times (November 20, 2004) signals that pheasant shooting is now clearly on the political agenda:
Animal rights campaigners have set their sights on banning game shooting after their victory over hunting. The League Against Cruel Sports and Animal Aid have made clear that they intend to step up their campaign against shooting as a bloodsport. The RSPCA, which has no campaign to ban shooting, is lobbying for a code of practice to protect pheasants reared for commercial shoots.
The Labour Animal Welfare Society is switching its efforts to shooting. Its website states: "Hunting down - shooting to go." The society, based in Walsall is chaired by Wally Burley, and its vice-chair is Baroness Gale, the Labour peeress. It supports the Labour Party and has links to the anti-hunt MPs Tony Banks and Ian Cawsey.
The society estimates that 35 million pheasants a year are bred in factory-farming conditions to be "beaten into the sky and shot principally for sport".
Police chiefs are aware of the threat to shooting and a number of forces have urged shooting estates to step up security. Estate managers have been advised to site breeding and release sheds and pens away from roads and footpaths. Police have suggested tighter surveillance although many landowners say that it is too expensive to install closed circuit televison cameras.
The Government insists that it has no intention of restricting shooting, estimated to be worth at least £1 billion to the rural economy and which attracts a million participants. But Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, believes that an MP will be persuaded to introduce a Private Member's Bill to start the process.
"No animal should be bred and intensively reared or used for the sole purpose of providing a target for paying customers," he said. The league is concerned at the number of pheasants killed which are not eaten. About 13 million are shot in a season, twice as many as the market can absorb, and some estates have to bury them in pits.
Estates charge on the basis on the number of birds available, so there is little incentive to reduce the number. A day's shoot costs £400-£2,000.
Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid, has started lobbying MPs about the suffering of birds reared for game shoots. "The pheasant industry is where factory farming meets bloodsports. The suffering experienced by these birds while they are being fattened for the kill and as they repeatedly run the gauntlet of the guns cannot plausibly be justified," he said.
Peter Setterfield, who runs a shoot near Petworth, West Sussex, said: "With a ban on hunting we know that game shoots will now come under attack by saboeturs." He believes protests will be difficult because most shoots are on private land. "The worry is that they will be so frustrated that they will turn their attention to rearing units."