Animal Aid

PHEASANT SHOOTING: A special report

The second part of this special Animal Aid report includes a selection of quotations from industry commentators.

A selection of recently-published comments from the industry's own leading advocates

The taste of victory

Comment, Julian Murray-Evans, Editor
Shooting Times & Country Magazine, 30 August 2001

'It is staggering, and more than a little embarrassing, that far too many shooters don't eat the game they shoot. If we don't do our bit, then how can anyone complain about low game prices and attacks on rearing. We have to "Eat for victory".'

Will big bags finish us off?

Shooting Times & Country Magazine, 26 April 2001
John Swift, Chief Executive, British Association of Shooting and Conservation

'At the moment I do not believe big or excessive bags are bringing shooting into disrepute. There is very little public perception of gameshooting compared with, say foxhunting, and the only public media references were related to the Animal Aid campaign last year, which contributed to the demise of the John Lewis shoot...

'However big bags could well become a problem if shot birds are not used for human consumption or if there are lots of birds killed on roads...

''Within the sport, people have real concerns that the shooting of excessive bags is distasteful and is tarnishing their image and reputation. There is real anxiety...

I can see the day when the sport as a whole makes it clear that bags of more than 500 pheasants and partridge are not acceptable, but that opinion must come from the grass-roots...

'The problem is not confined to commercial shoots, rather it centres on greed, whether the shoot is commercial or private. Sometimes it can be greed for money, and sometimes just a question of shooting more birds than the next Gun or exceeding those shot at another shoot. It becomes a matter of ostentation...

'Naming and shaming will be a sanction of the last resort, but if that is what it takes to save our sport, it must be done.'

Mark Firth, chairman of the Campaign for Shooting

'As a rule, big bags should be avoided, as they can give the wrong public perception...

'Shoots must realise that it is probably difficult to make frequent and excessive bags, yet still leave a conservation 'plus'...

'Of course excessive bags are not confined to commercial shoots, and many excesses actually take place on totally private shoots...'

Dr Nick Sotherton, head of research, Game Conservancy

'At higher [release] densities, we see bad management, pollution and habitat destruction, where the land can't support the density released.'

Dr Steve Tapper, head of public affairs, Game Conservancy

'As far as shooting is concerned there are at least two criteria. First, can the Guns cleanly kill and retrieve the game, without compromising the bird's welfare and its integrity as food? Second, can all game be marketed or given away for human consumption? If it can't be eaten, it should not be shot.'

Pheasants: feathered targets or food?

Comment, Country Life, 1 February 2001.

'...many large estates now shoot four or even five days a week from November to the end of January, killing as many as 2,000 birds a week. Shooting on such a large scale can be justified if there is a ready market for the birds bagged. This no longer exists. During this past season the price paid by game dealers for a brace of pheasants has fallen to between 60p and 80p a brace. In some areas, over-supply has led to shoots being forced to give away their bags, or, worse still, bury their surplus...

'There is one simple reason for the slump in demand for pheasants: over-supply. About 13 million pheasants were shot during this past season, which is probably twice as many as the market can absorb...

'Worryingly, on many commercial shoots, pheasants and partridges are regarded as feathered targets, not food. Many people who shoot even decline to take home their traditional brace of birds...

'Demand for big bags has led to considerable overstocking with tame, hand-reared birds...

'...the ecological impact of releasing 20 or more birds per hectare - a common stocking figure on many commercial shooting estates - is serious. It not only reduces the breeding success of wild stock, but leads to crop damage, soil erosion round release pens, and a greatly increased risk of disease...

'Rearing and releasing game for shooting has already been outlawed in Holland, and there seems little doubt that coming years will see the threat of similar legislation in this country. If such legislation is to be avoided, then a radical rethink of lowland game shooting is essential...

'Those who shoot will have to rethink the size of their bags and realise that the quality of a day's sport should not be measured by the number of shots fired, or the number of birds killed. If the majority of game shooters and shoot managers can be persuaded to think on these lines, then pheasant shooting has a future. If the big bags of unwanted pheasants continue, then game shooting is sure to find itself in trouble.'

Big Bags: fact or fiction?

Columnist Graham Downing
Shooting Times & Country Magazine, 18 January 2001.

'Excessive bags, topping up drives with birds long after the start of the shooting programme, an over-supply of dead game, leading to catastrophic drop in prices from the dealer - the unacceptable face of gameshooting has been chewed over everywhere in recent months, from the boardrooms of the shooting organisations and the pre-shoot country house parties, to the beaters' trailer...

'There is an unease about commercialism fuelled, just as it was in the mid-1980's, by a thriving economy, that has created in gameshooting, just as in other areas of leisure consumerism, a strong and buoyant marketplace...

'The ability to achieve consistently high numbers is certainly at the root of topping-up, a practice which is most definitely outlawed by the Code...

'On a well-managed shoot...topping up is unnecessary. Unfortunately the shoot manager faced with a shortage of birds to satisfy the programme he has already sold - possibly as a result of losses from disease, which has itself been brought on by overcrowded pens, coupled with poor stock and poor husbandry - may not see it that way...

'The result [of the lack of demand for pheasant meat], as we are all too aware, is that dealers now pay next to nothing for dead game, even if they can be persuaded to collect it at all.'

Greed and excess results in big bag syndrome

Nimrod column
The Countryman's Weekly, July 20 2001.

'You're driving down a country road in August, minding your own business and admiring the view. Suddenly, the road ahead is alive with half-witted pheasant poults scuttling along the verges or trying to commit suicide as they meander aimlessly in front of passing traffic... Smashed bodies are scattered along the tarmac, birds that didn't know the Green Cross Code and the general scenario is hardly one to endear the unknowing urban visitor towards shooting.

'...By far the majority of shoots are discreet and try to avoid public conflict or poor publ

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