Shooting estates are churning out millions of factory-farmed pheasants and partridges into the British countryside, only for the birds to be gunned down and thrown in the incinerator, buried or fly-tipped by the roadside.
Around half the millions of birds shot during the new pheasant shooting season - which opens on today - will never make it to a ‘game’ dealer, according to independent research.
According to the Savills ‘Shoot Benchmarking Survey 2017/18’, on average only 48 percent of the birds shot will be taken by game dealers.
With the number of pheasants being bred to be killed estimated as at least 27 million each year – though potentially much higher – the number of birds killed ‘purely for fun’ is at an alarming level.
Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Shooting estates are churning out millions of factory-farmed pheasants and partridges into the British countryside, only for the birds to be gunned down and thrown in the incinerator, buried or fly-tipped by the roadside.
"Even if you’re happy to have pheasant for dinner, there can be no justification for this massive waste of life – all in the name of ‘sport’.”
The report also points out that prices received for ‘game’ birds have fallen by 50–60 percent over the last six years, and fell 35–38 percent between the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons.
The report states: "The market situation also meant not all shoots were able to sell their shot game, last season 46 percent were supplying their game dealer free of charge and 12 percent were paying the game dealer to collect them. There was some variation but typically payments were 20–30p per bird."
The shooting industry has set up the British Game Alliance, in an attempt to get more people to eat ‘game’ meat. But Countryside Alliance polling showed that 85 percent of people had never bought pheasant or partridge to eat at home – in spite of the meat being regularly available.
Pressure on shooting has continued to increase. Last week, pheasant shooting was banned on public land in Wales. Meanwhile, polling during the summer by the League Against Cruel Sports and Animal Aid showed that nearly seven out of ten people (69 percent) in Great Britain want ‘game’ bird shooting made illegal.
Luffingham added: “You can’t shoot millions and millions of pheasants then claim it’s one for the pot, when it’s blindingly obvious that most people in this country don’t put pheasant in their pot.
The shooting industry is out of control. It’s purely about money – breed as many targets as they can then let the punters blast them to bits. Any claim that this industry cares about the birds it raises is patently nonsense.”
In recent months senior industry figures have publicly slated “greedy” shoots following game birds being incinerated, buried in pits and fly-tipped after being gunned down for ‘sport’.
Pheasants and partridges are routinely confined to barren, wire-floored battery cages on game bird breeding farms across the UK and France, undercover investigations by the League show.
The birds are not the only animals to suffer, as hundreds of thousands of other animals and birds are trapped, snared and killed to ‘protect’ the pheasants and partridges which will then be shot.
Luffingham concluded: “For many years the extreme cruelty and environmental damage inflicted by the ‘game’ bird shooting industry has gone on unabated, despite clear warnings and unprecedented public opposition.
"It is clear the game bird shooting industry is rotten to the core and a ban must be introduced. The public expect nothing less.”
Marianne Brooker is a contributing editor for The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from the League Against Cruel Sports.