Game Over – Almost seven out of ten think shooting birds for ‘sport’ should be illegal

Pressure on the government to put an end to ‘game’ bird shooting is mounting after new polling shows that nearly seven out of ten people (69%) in Great Britain want the cruel ‘sport’ made illegal.

The YouGov polling, commissioned by animal protection groups, the League Against Cruel Sports and Animal Aid, coincides with the ground-breaking decision by the Welsh government to implement an end to the licensing of pheasant shooting on public land in the country.

‘Game’ bird shooting involves the mass production of more than 35 million pheasants and partridges each year. Those who survive until shooting season are released on shooting estates to be shot by paying customers. Despite claims that the birds are then eaten, huge numbers of dead birds are dumped or incinerated as there is very little demand for ‘game’ meat.

 Chris Luffingham, Director of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said:

“The shooting industry tries to paint pheasant and partridge shooting as some kind of traditional, idyllic activity which puts food on the table. That image has been blown out of the sky because people clearly don’t believe it any more.

“These birds are bred to be killed. Many die of disease or on the roads before they even get to the shooting grounds. If any get a bullet to the head they are the lucky ones because with amateurs taking pot shots at them many are going to be wounded and die in agony. Then some might be eaten but many will be dumped or burned – the end to a life of suffering fashioned by an uncaring industry.”

 Isobel Hutchinson, Director of Animal Aid, said:

“This poll proves that the vast majority of the public abhor the cruelty inflicted on birds by the shooting industry.

“We are also heartened that 80% oppose the cages used to incarcerate the breeding birds whose offspring will become feathered targets for shooters. Our undercover work has repeatedly revealed the suffering of those breeding birds, languishing in their thousands in horrific conditions. The frustration they experience at their captivity leads them to attack one another and repeatedly fly into the cage roof in a futile attempt to escape.

 “It is time for politicians to take notice of public opinion and as a first, vital step, ban the cruel cages.”


The polling of over 2000 people across Great Britain, conducted by YouGov on behalf of Animal Aid and the League Against Cruel Sports, revealed:

  • 69% think shooting birds for sport should be illegal
  • Only 18% think shooting birds for sport should be legal
  • 80% oppose the use of cages to breed these birds

 Once those taking the poll had read about the breeding birds being kept in cages, they were asked again if they thought shooting birds for sport should be illegal:

  • 73% said yes
  • 16% said no

Wales to put an end to shooting on public land

Shooting on public land in Wales is likely to end by Spring 2019 – the first time a government in the UK has taken such a move. During a consultation on shooting in Wales carried out by

Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Welsh Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn stated that leases for pheasant shoots on public land should not be renewed, citing public opinion and animal welfare concerns.

NRW initially appeared to ignore the government’s recommendation, but in a statement said they “will now look at how to implement the Minister’s position, considering any legal implications of reviewing the leasing of rights for pheasant shooting.”

If this action is taken, ‘game’ shooting will end on Welsh public land when the existing three licenses run out, which is in Spring 2019.

What’s wrong with ‘game’ bird shooting?

 Millions of birds (pheasant, partridge, grouse and others) are shot for sport during the shooting season, estimated at 100,000 a day.

According to Defra, virtually all the red-legged partridges released on UK shooting estates come from breeding birds confined in barren wire-mesh cages with less space per bird than an A4 piece of paper, often for their entire life. An increasing majority of breeding pheasants are now also confined in wire-mesh cages for at least three months a year.

Conditions are often worse than allowed under the law for chickens, leading to injury, stress, mutilation and death.

Many of the birds released on UK shooting estates actually start their lives on factory farms abroad – at least 50% according to Defra. These young birds can spend 20 hours or more crammed inside a crate stacked in the back of a lorry travelling from the factory farms to their destination in the UK.

As well as the millions of birds that suffer at the hands of this industry, millions of other animals are harmed and persecuted.

In their bid to have as many birds as possible to shoot for sport and profit, gamekeepers wage a war of persecution on animals that predate on 'game' birds. Wire snares and traps are set to target animals such as foxes, stoats and corvids, however, due to the indiscriminate nature of these devices, many non-target protected and endangered species such as badgers and hares get caught in these traps.

- Ends -


Notes to Editors

 All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2060 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th - 27th June 2018.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

 For more information or interview requests please contact League Against Cruel Sports Press Office on 01483 524250 (24hrs) or email; Animal Aid on 01732 364546. 

Sign up for our newsletter

We'd love to keep in touch. With your permission we'll let you know the very latest news on our fast-moving campaigns, as well as appeals and other actions (such as petitions) so you can continue to help protect animals.

If you would like to know more about your data protection rights, please read our privacy policy.

© 2024 The League Against Cruel Sports. Registered charity in England and Wales (1095234) and Scotland (SC045533).
Registered in England and Wales as a company limited by guarantee, no. 04037610.
Registered office: New Sparling House, Holloway Hill, Godalming, GU7 1QZ, United Kingdom.