Wales' Opponents of Pheasant Shooting
1. The Secretary of State presented the
draft Bill as a Bill for our time and the 21st century. That it
is certainly not. Instead it deliberately but inadequately seeks
to preserve the cruelty of an inhumane blood sport that is definitely
not of our time. In doing so it not only muddles the distinction
between animals that are kept by man and those that are wild but
also emphasises both the official and public ignorance that surrounds
game bird shooting for pleasure.
2. It was Lembit Öpik MP who in promoting
his Middle Way Group in the Hunting with Dogs debate, asserted
that the capture and breeding of foxes for later release was wrongful
conduct in hunting. Yet similarly, both practices are the legal
foundation of game bird shooting. Birds are caught up, held for
breeding and their offspring later released for pleasure shooting.
3. The birds are not bred as food. They
are not despatched quickly and humanely. Their destruction provides
pleasure for those that kill them. Their life and death is not
synonymous with civilised society.
4. The aim of this submission is to highlight
that the Animal Welfare Bill has been drafted to align with HM
Government's conciliatory pledge to leave game shooting intact
in the wake of its intention to publish the Hunting with Dogs
5. The expression protected animal includes
most pets and farm animals and non-domestic animals not living
in the wild state. It includes all animals kept by man. The Bill
considers an animal is kept by man whenever someone can be identified
as being in charge of, or responsible for, the animal.
6. Implicit in the Bill's estimate that
its provisions will have a negligible financial effect on the
game bird rearing industry (Table at Page 82) is the Bill's authors'
lack of game bird rearing knowledge.
7. The pheasant-shooting season starts annually
on 1 October and ends on 1 February in the following year. Egg
production starts in March and progresses to July using surviving
birds that are caught up at the end of the season. Chicks are
maintained in the development areas until they are aged between
6-7 weeks and moved to Release Enclosures as poults from May and
June onwards. At least one month before 1 October, the birds are
seduced by feeding and watering to cover-crop or wooded areas
that surround the Release Enclosures. For the remainder of their
lives until destruction by shooting, they are fed, sheltered,
watered and protected from predation by gamekeepers. Ideally the
birds are hand fed and summoned by whistle twice a day. More practically,
they are fed from hoppers. The birds are kept by man. There is
no other way of maintaining in a confined area, the enormous game
bird releases necessary to fulfil the British Association of Game
Shooting and Conservation's (BASC) recommended maximum bag of
500 birds per day.
8. The Bill therefore classifies reared
and released pheasants as protected animals. Clearly under this
Bill it would be an offence to kill a game bird in any other way
than humanely. The Bill clarifies that the killing of an animal
is not in itself inconsistent with the duty to ensure its welfare,
if done in an appropriate and humane manner. But it is not possible
to guarantee a clean kill on a moving live target, in or approaching
the outside of range, with a shotgun. Particularly so when there
is no British obligatory test of shooting skills for those engaged
in the killing of live birds and other animals, unlike many other
9. Even more clearly, because the Bill expects
to have little financial impact upon the game rearing industry,
this muddled classification cannot be the intention of the Bill.
It must be assumed that the Government believes that because pheasants
and other game birds are released from close confinement they
become wild. This attitude continues throughout official inconsistent
classification of game. Game farms are subject to Non-Business
Rates valuation by the Valuation Office Agency because the farms
are not rearing food. Similarly game-rearing activity requires
planning consent because it is not within the definition of agriculture
in the Town and Country Planning Acts. Yet pheasants bred for
sport are zero-rated for VAT because HM Customs and Excise do
consider them food.
10. Game rearing is self-regulated by the
Game Farmers' Association (GFA) Code of Practice. Game Shooting
is self-regulated by the Code of Good Shooting Practice, sponsored
amongst others by the BASC. Neither code is effective. Neither
currently applies to all people rearing or shooting game.
11. The Bill intends to introduce a Statutory
Code of Practice for the Rearing of Game Birds for Sport Shooting.
It is envisaged that the new code will be based on the self-regulatory
code that is currently ineffective. But the industry cannot be
trusted to regulate itself. Regular reports in the media through
2004 back to 2003 and beyond highlight the excesses and abuses
of the game shooting industry.
12. All the photographs in this submission
were taken in a Welsh Game Farm during June 2004 (not printed).
They do little to convey the suffering, crowded conditions, poor
husbandry, hygiene, managerial indifference and appalling smell.
13. Yet in the absence of a full ban on
rearing and shooting for pleasure, it is encouraging that the
Bill also provides that a national Authority may consult such
persons as it may think fit in drafting or amending Codes of Practice.
It is recommended that organisations with clear agendas such as
the BASC, GFA and the Game Conservancy Trust be balanced in equal
measure by animal welfare organisations (also with their own agendas)
and independent experts in any proposed committee formulating
Codes of Practice.
14. Annex I to the draft Bill correctly
summarises that there is little concern generally about the welfare
of game birds. This Bill markedly misses the opportunity to correct
the inhumanity inherent in game rearing and shooting.
15. Game rearing for pleasure shooting is
counter to the general thrust of the Draft Animal Welfare Bill.
Despite this, there has been a deliberate but muddled attempt
to placate the rearing and shooting industry by leaving game rearing
virtually unaffected, perhaps without understanding that reared
and released game birds fall into the Bill's protected animal
16. The Bill fails to address the cruelty
of rearing an animal to gain pleasure from its destruction. Nor
does it acknowledge the scale of the cruelty or its incongruity
with the ideals of a civilised 21st century nation.
17. The Bill authorises the appropriate
national authority to make provision for prohibiting specified
practices in relation to animals. It is recommended that the Assembly
of Wales and the Secretary of State (for practices in England)
prohibit the cruelty of shooting all reared and released animals
for pleasure. In the absence of the unambiguous outright and immediate
ban unannounced by this Bill, the appropriate national authority
is recommended to outline the phasing out of the release and shooting
of game birds within a specified period.
20 August 2004