How many people buy a local pheasant to eat and think they are eating a wild, free-range bird? In fact, any game bird, whether in a shop or a restaurant, is almost guaranteed, unless otherwise stated, to be a product of a huge, highly-lucrative shooting industry run purely for fun and profit.
Some 35 million pheasants and 6.5 million partridge are “produced” and released into our countryside as live targets each year. I understand a large proportion of these will have been shipped over as chicks from France, Spain and Portugal, having been reared in conditions now illegal in this country.
Once mature enough, they are released in the surrounding countryside and left to fend for themselves with no natural ability to defend themselves from predators and other hazards. They are encouraged to stay in the shooting areas by supplementary feeding, but if they stray or are frightened away from these areas, I understand they often starve to death or die from exposure.
As they are naturally easy targets for any predators, some gamekeepers may shoot or trap and kill any animal that stands in the way of profit for this lucrative industry; the shooting industry itself estimates that a staggering 4.5 million animals a year are killed to preserve their “sport” and profit.
I would argue that many protected species, like otters, badgers and birds of prey, may be poisoned, trapped or shot. Even domestic animals like cats and dogs have been injured or killed in snares, I understand.
Furthermore, as there is no mandatory training for gun use, many inexperienced people take part in these shoots, which means that many birds will just be injured, causing suffering and often a prolonged death.
In recent footage of pheasant shooting on both Inside Out and Country File, shot pheasants could be seen flapping around on the ground.
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Often so many birds are shot they never end up on the table, but are dumped somewhere or buried in mass graves, a potential health hazard.
The final point, as Inside Out highlighted, is that such large quantities of birds not indigenous to this country are having a huge, often detrimental, effect on our native flora and fauna.
Surely, our society has progressed far enough that we no longer consider it acceptable that animals can be released as live targets and we then call it a “sport”.
It is no more or less than a form of canned hunting, which the majority of us are keen to condemn in other countries.
If our woodlands are sold off to private bidders, we can expect this sort of canned hunting to surpass all proportions, something we should be grossly ashamed of in the 21st Century.