Pheasant shooting season opens despite growing controversies

On Monday October 2nd the killing of millions of non-native pheasants and partridges begins, amid mounting controversy surrounding the UK shooting industry’s alleged links to wildlife crime.

The start of this year’s shooting season comes as ongoing claims of raptor persecution and illegal snaring on shooting estates are made and follows an announcement by Sir Ian Botham, that he was donating game birds killed on his estates to those in poverty, a move that attracted much criticism.

Philippa King, Acting CEO for the League Against Cruel Sports, said:

“The evidence continues to mount against the shooting industry, as further reports of the killing and disappearance of birds of prey and the discovery of illegal traps on shooting estates come to light.

“Sir Ian Botham caused much outcry when he announced he was going to donate game birds from his estate to the poor – perhaps because people would prefer that those directly benefiting from the shooting industry didn’t try to deceive the public into thinking the industry has nothing to hide.”

Two shooters accompanied by a boy in a shooting estate, pointing their guns to a bird

It is believed that around 100,000 birds are shot daily during the season, and in addition to the massive numbers of birds involved, there are ongoing allegations of raptor persecution on shooting estates, environmental damage, conservation failure and animal welfare concerns surrounding the UK shooting industry. The League Against Cruel Sports is calling for these concerns to be addressed as part of an independent inquiry.

Philippa King added: “The shooting industry is responsible for the factory farming of millions of pheasants. These birds are subjected to cruel and intensive husbandry methods and when they are released to be killed, many are wounded rather than being killed outright, further adding to their suffering.

“With evidence mounting against the industry’s poor animal welfare practices and its links to the persecution of wildlife, the time for an independent inquiry into the UK shooting industry is long overdue.”

There are currently no minimum legal space requirements for caged pheasants and partridges as there are for those animals bred or kept for farming. Defra’s own research shows that caged pheasants and partridges suffer from painful open sores on their feet caused by the wire mesh floor they are kept on for up to three months a year before being released to be shot.

Wire snares and traps are often set by gamekeepers on shooting estates 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, hares and even pet cats and dogs get caught and killed in these traps.

The shooting season’s official start day – October 1st – this year falls on a Sunday, when no shooting takes place, so the birds will have a momentary reprieve before the killing begins on the 2nd.

- Ends -

Notes to Editors

  • There have been several reports of unexplained disappearances of hen harriers and other raptors on or near grouse moors this year.
  • There have been 58 recorded raptor persecution incidents so far in 2017.
  • In 2016, there were only 4 nesting pairs of hen harriers pairs left in England.
  • Around 35 million pheasants and red-legged partridges, both non-native species in the UK, are released on UK shooting estates each year.
  • Caged pheasants and partridges suffer from painful open sores on their feet caused by the wire mesh floor. Breeding pheasants have ‘bits’ forced into their nostrils – devices to reduce the injuries caused by pecking one another.

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