Revealed: 27 million ‘game’ birds imported into UK for shooting last year

Over 27 million ‘game’ birds have been imported into the UK to be shot for ‘sport ’since May 2018, with Eurotunnel remaining the last known carrier of live birds for shooting. 

The previously-unpublished figures put a spotlight on the colossal number of pheasants and partridges sourced from continental factory-farms by British shooting estates. They were uncovered by the League Against Cruel Sports and Kerry McCarthy MP through a request to DEFRA. They exceed previous estimates by approximately 10 million birds.

The animal charity is warning that the shooting industry’s sourcing of game birds and eggs from across the channel is also fuelling the expansion of large shoots where up to 500 birds are killed per day in the UK. Factory-farms in France, Spain, Portugal and Poland are rapidly growing to meet this demand.

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

“It is clear the import of game birds and ready-to-hatch eggs from continental factory-farms is fuelling the rapid expansion of commercial ‘game’ bird shooting across the UK.

“Whether the birds are imported live or as ready-to-hatch eggs, the end result remains the same: millions of partridges and pheasants shot out of the sky for entertainment, with many being thrown in incinerators, buried in pits or fly-tipped by the roadside."

The cross-channel trade in game birds has been hit hard by campaigning pressure, with leading ferry companies adopting embargoes.

P&O Ferries, DFDS Seaways and Brittany Ferries stopped transporting game birds from the continent following an undercover investigation by the League in 2015 into factory-farms where some of the birds are born.

An investigation by the Hunt Saboteurs Association into two major French game bird breeders supplying UK shoots – L’Envol de Retz and Gibovendee – found birds incarcerated in bleak wire-mesh cages. The pheasants exhibited abnormal behaviours induced by the extreme stress of captivity, including tearing out their own and other birds’ feathers, fighting with ‘cage mates’ and repetitive jumping at cage walls. Some birds were discovered wounded or dead.

Chris Luffingham adds:

“Day-old pheasant and partridge chicks are being shipped like cargo onboard Eurotunnel’s passenger trains — just meters away from unsuspecting customers. Those birds that don’t die during transportation will be shot for entertainment unless Eurotunnel does the right thing by banning their transportation.

“That’s why the League is demanding that Eurotunnel stops providing a lifeline for the ‘game’ bird shooting industry by ending the transport of live pheasants and partridges and ready-to-hatch eggs.”

Campaigners have vowed to continue until Eurotunnel makes a commitment to stop transporting game birds for shooting.

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