Bird flu outbreak ‘inevitable’ as shooting industry intensively breeds 35m pheasants & partridges each year

Eduardo Goncalves, Chief Executive of The League Against Cruel Sports, commenting on the bird flu outbreak among 10,000 pheasants on a farm in Lancashire, said:

“This outbreak of Bird Flu was inevitable and should be a wake up call because the amount of birds used by the shooting industry each year is a disaster waiting to happen. More pheasants and partridges are bred to be shot each year than the combined number of turkeys and ducks killed for the table, but the understanding of their impact on the wider ecological picture is poorly researched and understood.

“This has come because of the greed of the shooting industry which raises 35 million pheasants and partridges to be shot for sport every year. It’s terribly sad that more birds have been infected with Bird Flu, but the unpalatable reality is that in the case of pheasants, they will be shot soon enough anyway.”

Animal welfare charity, the League Against Cruel Sports is calling for an independent inquiry into the shooting industry following increasing concerns about the hobby. Last year the charity highlighted how the birds are factory farmed in conditions that would not be tolerated for ‘farm’ birds like chickens. Huge numbers die of disease and traffic accidents, while many of the 100,000 shot each day during the shooting season will simply be dumped rather than eaten.

The industry is also responsible for killing huge numbers of other animals and birds by setting snares around the estates in attempt to ‘protect’ the birds they wish to shoot. Defra figures suggest that around 1.7m animals are killed by snares each year, including foxes, hares, badgers, otters and even pet cats and dogs. Birds of prey have been targeted for the same reasons with many examples of raptors being poisoned. Buzzards, a protected species, can now be shot by shooting estate gamekeepers if they apply for a licence from Natural England.

Eduardo Goncalves added: Pheasant shooting is often portrayed as a glamorous sport which is part of countryside tradition, but it is not the healthy-living, natural activity it is made out to be. The birds are factory farmed in awful conditions, then blown out of the sky for the enjoyment of people who cannot possibly eat all the birds they kill. The ones that aren’t eaten are dumped, the ones that are eaten contain lead which potentially poses a risk to human health. This is an industry which has one focus – money – but the implications for the birds, the countryside and now potentially human health have been ignored – and that must change.”


Notes to Editors

For further information, comment or interview requests, please contact the League’s Press Office on 01483 524250 or email

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