Animal Aid

As gamebird suffering is exposed...LABOUR COSIES UP TO THE BLOODSPORTS LOBBY

Posted 25 September 2007

Less than three years after parliament banned hunting with hounds, the red carpet was rolled out at this week’s Labour Party conference for the leading figures of a bloodsport that involves the mass production and ‘sport shooting’ of scores of millions of birds (see Notes 4 & 5).

On Tuesday evening, Labour vice chair and Reading West MP Martin Salter hosted a reception for pro-shoot lobby group the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC). Salter was recently made a BASC ‘Centenary Patron’. Speakers at the event were Rural Affairs Minister, Jonathan Shaw; Sports Minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, and Home Office Minister, Vernon Coaker.

Other born-again bloodsports enthusiasts within the government include Schools Minister, Jim Knight, and even Animal Welfare Minister, Jeff Rooker.

Rooker is charged with overseeing the 2006 Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which has been heralded by the government as the most significant animal protection initiative in nearly a century. But pro-shoot elements within the government are intent on using the Act to legitimise the industrialised farming of pheasants and partridges to be shot for sport.

As part of the production process, scores of thousands of breeding birds are confined in metal battery cages for the whole of their productive lives. The AWA was an opportunity to outlaw these contraptions through a new Code of Practice. Instead, the government arranged for the Standing Committee that is currently writing the Code to be dominated by shooting industry figures.

And to help the Committee with its deliberations, DEFRA has commissioned ‘scientific research’ into gamebird production from the avowedly pro-shooting Game Conservancy Trust.

Animal Aid, which first exposed ‘gamebird’ battery cages in November 2004, has revisited two of the four producers known to operate the system (see Note 2). The undercover footage we shot during the height of the 2007 egg production season shows stressed, diseased, wounded and feather-pecked birds - as well as several dead pheasants, lying prone on the metal grill floors.

The battery cages adjoin each other and are arranged in long rows. The metal and wire mesh boxes are open to the elements all year round. Within each pheasant unit are confined one cock and six or seven females. Partridges are held in pairs inside a metal walled box that measures just two feet by three.

Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

‘In Europe, the British government is pursuing a ban on battery cages for egg laying hens because the devices are widely considered to be inhumane. At the same time, battery cages for pheasants and partridges are set to be awarded a government seal of approval under a welfare act that is supposed to penalise ‘unnecessary suffering’. This represents a massive betrayal of animals by a government that - in running scared of another battle with the bloodsports lobby - is giving a virtual free hand to an industry that is guilty of systematic and gratuitous animal cruelty on a massive scale.’

Notes to Editor:

  1. The report and film - which have this week been sent to key political and industry figures - mark the start of a campaign of intense lobbying by Animal Aid.
  2. Animal Aid's covert filming of gamebird battery cages was undertaken on June 20 at G & A Leisure, Bettws Cedewain, Powys, and on June 21 at Hy-Fly Game Hatcheries, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancs.
  3. The Code of Practice for Gamebird Production is expected to be brought into force in 2009.
  4. Around 40 million factory-farmed pheasants and partridges are released for shooting every year.
  5. Many shot birds are not eaten. Country Life magazine has reported that some are buried in specially dug pits.

More information from Andrew Tyler at 01732 364 546. After hours: 07918 083774

Still images 'grabbed' from the undercover battery cage footage available on request.

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