Countryside rejects ‘game’ bird shooting

Polling of rural residents in England and Wales shows shooting is a fringe activity

As another blood-soaked shooting season draws to a close, polling has revealed that fewer than one in four (24 per cent) rural residents agree that the shooting of ‘game’ birds reflects countryside values. This is set against an overwhelming figure of nine out of ten (91 per cent) of rural residents who think observing nature is an activity that really does reflect the values of the countryside.

35 million pheasants and partridges are bred on factory farms and released on shooting estates in the UK every year. 100,000 birds are shot every day during the shooting seasons – with the pheasant and partridge shooting season ending on February 1.

Carried out by Survation and commissioned by the League Against Cruel Sports, the polling suggests rural residents in England and Wales have spurned bloodsports in favour of more ethical activities and only five per cent of rural residents ever take part in the grisly ‘sport’ of shooting birds.

The very low number of people taking part in the shooting of ‘game’ birds, compared to 63 per cent who observe wildlife at least once a month, indicates that the public were far more interested in watching animals than shooting them.

The polling also showed 59 per cent of rural residents take part in walking or hiking at least once a month; 39 per cent participate in running, cycling or horse riding at least once a month; and 52 per cent visit pubs at least once a month.

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

“Only a small percentage of people who live in the countryside shoot ‘game’ birds and yet millions of pheasants and partridges are blasted out of the sky every year.

“The shooting industry’s own figures show that up to 40 per cent of game birds will not die instantly but will be ‘winged’ and suffer a slow, agonising death on the ground.

“We are a nation of animal lovers and this polling confirms that the majority of people in the countryside reject ‘game’ bird shooting in favour of observing nature.”

When asked to rank, from a list, the three top recreational activities most in keeping with countryside values, 82 per cent of rural residents listed observing/enjoying wildlife as one of their top three, 81 per cent listed walking/hiking/rambling, 40 per cent listed walking their dog, 35 per cent listed visiting historical buildings, 24 per cent listed exercise such as running, cycling and horse riding, and 23 per cent listed visiting pubs.

This was set against a figure of only 5 per cent of rural residents who listed ‘game’ bird shooting amongst their top three.

The shooting industry is currently at the centre of a scandal involving the dumping of game birds with the number of birds being shot far outstripping demand for their meat.

Shooting estates are still churning out millions of factory-farmed pheasants and partridges into the British countryside each year, only for the birds to be gunned down and thrown in the incinerator, buried in pits or fly-tipped by the roadside.

‘Game’ bird shooting is also attracting criticism for the widespread targeting by gamekeepers of any wildlife that gets in the way of commercial shooting operations – birds of prey, foxes, badgers, crows, magpies, hares, stoats and weasels are all killed.

Chris Luffingham said:

“Many ‘game’ birds won’t make it onto the dinner plates and we’ve had reports of pheasants being dumped in pits or incinerated – for many large shoots it’s not a case of shooters taking a brace of birds for the pot but up to 600 birds being shot every day.”

The League Against Cruel Sports is currently calling on the University of Wales to stop shooting on its Gregynog Hall campus.

The University is expected to make a decision by the end of February on whether to renew its shooting lease with Bettws Hall, the UK’s largest shooting operation, which rears more than 1.5 million ‘game’ birds each year in an industrial rearing facility.

A Freedom of Information request by the League revealed that 57,000 pheasants were released to be shot over a five-year period on the campus.

Over eight thousand people have written to the University of Wales calling for the lease to not be reviewed.

Chris Luffingham, added:

“The beautiful grounds of the University of Wales Gregynog campus are blighted by the regular slaughter of ‘game’ birds for ‘sport’.

“There should be no place for animal cruelty in a modern and enlightened institution and the University needs to turn its back on the outdated and barbaric practice of shooting.”

On Boxing Day, the League Against Cruel Sports released polling showing hunting and the killing of British wildlife with packs of hounds was also rejected by rural residents in favour of observing nature.


Notes to Editors

The polling took place in early December 2018 with a sample size of 1,072 people aged over 18 living in rural areas in England and Wales.

Full details and tables available here:


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