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FEATHERING THEIR NESTS
Posted 4 October 2002
The pheasant rearing and shooting industry is depriving the public purse of millions of pounds in unpaid taxes, according to a new report published this week by national campaign group Animal Aid.
The report, called Feathering Their Nests, points to the confusion across several government departments as to whether the mass production and shooting of millions of pheasants every year is 'sport' or 'agriculture'. It is a confusion the industry is happy to exploit.
In response to the campaign group's report, Conservative MP, David Amess, the Liberal Democrat's Norman Baker and Labour's Tony Banks have written jointly to Chancellor Gordon Brown expressing their concern and calling for a full inquiry into the lost revenues. They have also written to the chairman of the All-Party Treasury Select Committee.
Customs & Excise, says the Animal Aid report, has ruled that the pheasant industry is agricultural, and so rearing operations enjoy a zero VAT burden. The Valuation Office Agency, on the other hand, says that pheasant producers are 'sporting' rather than agricultural. This means that they should pay business rates - and yet the Animal Aid investigation has uncovered 40 such businesses that do not appear on the ratings list. The authorities have been passed a dossier and some of the 40 have already been told that they must pay rates from now on.
The most muddled ministry is DEFRA. It defines pheasant rearing as sporting - and therefore exempt from the basic farm animal welfare laws. Yet DEFRA recently awarded the industry a grant of £150,000 to help market game meat, on the grounds that it is a 'quality agricultural product'.
Local planning laws, the Animal Aid report claims, are also being exploited and there is widespread flouting of the legal requirement to purchase a licence to kill, keep, or deal in game. Just £4,132 was raised from licence fees in 2000/2001, after administrative costs were subtracted.
Says Animal Aid director, Andrew Tyler:
"Not content with abusing millions of captive pheasants and the large-scale destruction of British wildlife in 'predator control programmes', we now find that the pheasant industry is depriving the public purse of millions of pounds in unpaid taxes and game licence fees. These are sums that could help support the hard-pressed rural communities that lobby groups like the Countryside Alliance and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation claim are their number one concern. Animal Aid is calling for a full cross-departmental government investigation to recover these lost revenues. Meanwhile, we will be taking our message to the British public through the circulation of more than a quarter of a million new campaign leaflets and posters."
Notes to Editors
- For more information, call Andrew Tyler or Elaine Toland on 01732 364546.
- We have an ISDN line for broadcast-quality radio interviews.
- 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.
- Even before they become target practice, the birds suffer serious abuse. In an effort to eliminate the aggression caused by the crowded conditions in the rearing sheds and release pens, the pheasants are subjected to painful restraints and mutilations. These include beaks partially amputated with a red-hot blade and blinker-like spectacles fixed in place - sometimes by pins driven through the nasal septum. Around five million wild birds and mammals - attracted by the artificially high number of shed-reared birds - are killed annually with snares, body-crushing traps and poison.