FEATHERING THEIR NESTS - The missing tax millions
This is Animal Aid's fourth report into the modern pheasant shooting industry. In this special report we take a look at the pheasant shooting industry and the missing tax millions.
Every year in Britain, some 35 million pheasants are reared in sheds and released into the wild. Only about one quarter of the total produced are actually eaten - that's according to the industry's own advocates writing in leading shooting magazines (full references in our 'Greed and Excess...' report). About 16 million released birds die from starvation, disease, predation or under the wheels of motor vehicles before they can be shot; and half of those who are shot are left to rot or are buried in the ground.
The shooting press acknowledges that many 'guns' - who will despatch anywhere from 10 to 100-plus birds in a single day - will often not bother taking any of them home to eat.
So is the pheasant rearing and shooting industry a continuation of an ancient tradition, a modern sport, or part of the food industry?
The tax collecting, local planning authorities and enforcers of animal welfare laws are thoroughly muddled on that question - a confusion the industry is happy to exploit. Its anomalous status, a major new Animal Aid investigation can reveal, means that the public purse is being deprived of millions of pounds annually in business rates, VAT payments and licence fees. Local planning laws are also being exploited, through the development of large-scale shooting enterprises without prior permission. As well as the erection of enclosures holding thousands of birds, these unregulated developments sometimes involve the construction of access roads and purpose-built shooting lodges for the entertainment of clients who could be paying a day-rate of more than a thousand pounds for their board and 'sporting' pleasures.
As to the birds' welfare, not even the meagre animal protection measures that govern the production of poultry apply to pheasant rearing. Though they are mass-produced in crowded conditions, fitted with anti-aggression devices and are heavily medicated in an attempt to reduce stress-related diseases, the birds' main form of protection is no more than a voluntary industry welfare code.
The law says pheasant producers must pay business rates, but our investigation shows that a great many do not. Animal Aid has submitted to the relevant authorities a list of 40 rearing businesses which had been advertising pheasants for sale and yet whose names did not appear on the ratings lists. Several of the 40 have already been notified that they will from now on be expected to pay rates.
The main body of this special report looks in detail at tax and pheasant rearing.