People are starting to understand the life of cruelty endured by these birds, and they are saying they want it to end.
The Welsh public is overwhelmingly opposed to shooting and killing ‘game’ birds for ‘sport’, according to a new survey.
The YouGov poll - commissioned by Animal Aid and the League Against Cruel Sports - found 74 percent of people in Wales thought that shooting birds should be made illegal.
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The poll has been published to coincide with a major consultation on whether to allow shooting on public land by the largest Welsh Government Sponsored Body, Natural Resources Wales (NRW).
Life of cruelty
The polling also found that 76 percent of people oppose the shooting of game birds for sport on publicly owned land in Wales after learning how chicks are bred for sport shooting.
And 82 percent of respondents also oppose the use of cages for breeding ‘game’ bird and only one per cent of people thought that pheasants and other birds bred for sport shooting should have lower standards of welfare than other birds, as is the case now
The consultation closed yesterday and both animal welfare organisations plan on presenting the polling evidence and a petition, which has been signed by more than 12,500 people, to both Natural Resources Wales and the National Assembly for Wales’ Petitions Committee.
Bethan Collins, League Against Cruel Sports Senior Public Affairs Officer (Wales), said “People are starting to understand the life of cruelty endured by these birds, and they are saying they want it to end.
Released for slaughter
“These poor birds – millions of them in Wales – are intensively bred in cages and released only so they can be slaughtered for fun. Many will die or be killed before they even make it to the shooting estate, others will be wounded painfully rather than killed outright, and any suggestion that they all end up on someone’s dinner table is false – many dead birds will be simply dumped.”
Fiona Pereira, campaigns manager for Animal Aid, said:“I sincerely hope that NRW takes heed of these poll results which show the overwhelming opposition to the shooting of birds for sport on land in Wales. NRW manages the land on behalf of the people of Wales, and the opinion of the people could not be clearer. It’s time for the killing to stop.”
The consultation itself is the culmination of a campaign initiated by Animal Aid. This found that NRW had not only inherited shooting agreements from its predecessor bodies but that it planned to expand them – without public consultation.
The new poll also found that 72 percent of respondents felt that pheasants and other captive bred birds used for sport shooting should have the same standards of welfare as other birds.
Breaches of welfare
At present, ‘game’ birds are protected only by a basic and limited code of practice on their welfare which is voluntary for breeders to comply with.
Furthermore, the relevant government agency – the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) – does not inspect birds on ‘game’ farms unless a complaint has been made. This means that the birds are receiving a far lower level of scrutiny and protection even than other farmed animals.
Animal Aid’s investigation of ‘game’ birds kept on NRW land found breaches of welfare and industry Codes.
In 2017, 35-40 dead game birds were discovered inside a release pen on NRW-leased land. In addition, undercover visits to ‘game’ farms found breeding birds kept in entirely barren cages, again in breach of the welfare code.
The League Against Cruel Sports has campaigned alongside Animal Aid and local opposition groups to persuade NRW to stop using its land for shooting and instead use it for positive projects that will benefit people, animals and the environment.
Cruelly killing wildlife
In 2015, League Against Cruel Sports professional investigators visited shooting estates in Wales and exposed the indiscriminate practice of snaring which is cruelly killing Welsh wildlife.
The video also contains footage of the appalling conditions in which the ‘game’ birds are reared.In 2017 Animal Aid conducted an undercover investigation which found dead, trapped and suffering ‘game’ birds on NRW land.
Catherine Harte is a contributing editor of The Ecologist.