Revealed: how top Midlands pheasant shoot slaughtered hundreds of wild animals in secret cull
Gamekeepers employed by a leading Midlands pheasant shoot are responsible for secretly slaughtering hundreds of wild animals - including birds of prey - in a brutal attempt to protect game bird stocks, the League Against Cruel Sports can reveal.
An undercover investigation has revealed an unprecedented programme of 'predator control' by gamekeepers working on the Huddington shooting estate near Worcester (1), involving the extermination of hundreds of wild mammals and birds including foxes, weasels, stoats, squirrels, mink, rabbits, magpies, crows, deer and buzzards.
Secretly filmed video taken inside wooded shooting coverts on the Huddington Estate shows animals strung up on 'gibbet lines' (2), dumped in ditches and strewn on the ground near to pens holding the estates' game bird stocks. Many were freshly killed; others had decomposed. The video also shows some of the traps and snares used to kill the animals (2a).
The grim scenes were discovered after investigators received an anonymous tip off from a member of the shooting community stating that employees of the estate were devastating wildlife and persecuting birds of prey. Three dead buzzards - a protected species - were subsequently found on the estate, including one, recently killed, carefully hidden amongst pheasant feed sacks.
A post mortem and toxicology test carried out on the buzzard on behalf of the League established that the bird had been illegally poisoned. It is an offence to target buzzards and information on the case has been passed to officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for further investigation.
Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "The findings at the Huddington Estate provide a disturbing insight into the largely unreported persecution of wildlife by gamekeepers and vividly expose as a nonsense the notion that shooting is concerned with conservation."
He continued: "It is indefensible that these animals and birds have been persecuted in the name of sport. If the public knew the scale of the annual slaughter of wildlife by gamekeepers there would be an outcry."
Research and investigations by the League Against Cruel Sports have discovered that the UK's 2000 shooting estates are responsible for killing around 4.5 million mammals and birds of prey annually in order to protect the 35 million pheasants bred each year for shooting (3).
Gamekeepers use snares, traps, poisons and the gun in order to exterminate the animals in what is the most secretive aspect of the game bird shooting industry. Although wildlife persecution by gamekeepers is mostly concentrated during the pheasant shooting season, between October to February, gamekeepers carry out 'predator control' programmes all year round as part of the complex process of intensively rearing game birds and subsequently releasing them ready for shooting.
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1. The Huddington Estate comprises of several hundred acres of land, including three tenant farms, cantered around Huddington Court, near to Worcester, the home of the Edmondson family on whose behalf the pheasant shooting outfit is managed.
2. Gibbet lines are comprised of string, wire or rope strung up between two posts with persecuted wildlife hung out to deter other animals from approaching.
2a. Snares discovered on the Huddington Estate were set on non-static wooden dragpoles in breach of the British Association of Shooting and Conservation Code of Good Shooting Practice and subsequently contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 11 (3) (a), which states that it is an offence to set snares where they are calculated to cause bodily injury to any wildlife coming into contact with them. The fact that the snares were unanchored means any animal could become entwined in the snare, drag it off and thus render it impossible for the gamekeeper to check the snare in every twenty four hour period, as required by the code.
3. Statistics detailed in 'Killing For Sport: how gamekeepers are devastating Britain's wildlife', an investigative report by the League Against Cruel Sports and the National Anti-Snaring Campaign, published in November 2003. The report documents the scale of persecution of British wildlife by gamekeepers and details the variety of methods employed to target wildlife, including the widespread use of snares, many set illegally.