Animal Aid


Posted 28 November 2000

As Christmas approaches, the game industry is once again promoting pheasants as a 'wild', alternative meat source for the festive season. It claims that birds live a free, natural existence before being shot and bagged.

But national pressure group Animal Aid, in a new report on the industry called The Killing Fields, describes how the vast majority of birds shot each year have been factory reared in crowded sheds, fitted with painful behaviour-control devices and dosed with an array of pharmaceutical drugs.

Among these substances is a cancer-causing chemical called DMZ (dimetridazole), which is widely administered through the birds' feed. Claimed by game managers as the only available treatment for a number of diseases, the European Union banned DMZ in 1995 for all species except game birds. This followed the chemical being identified as a carcinogen for which no safe residue levels can be set. In other words, DMZ poses a risk to consumer health, whatever quantities are present.

Birds treated with DMZ must not be slaughtered for human consumption within 28 days of their last treatment. But Animal Aid has evidence to suggest that there is no proper supervision of the administration of drugs to game birds who might enter the human food chain.

The pressure group believes that the failure has arisen because the breeding and shooting of pheasants is regarded by government agencies - when it suits them - principally as a sporting rather than as a food production activity.

Animal Aid's Killing Fields report notes that around 36 million factory-reared birds are shot and bagged annually in the UK, and another 12 million are wounded but never retrieved.

Because of the crowded and stressful conditions in which they are raised, they suffer a high incidence of 'diseases of intensification' - ailments common to other branches of factory farming. These include salmonellosis and E.coli septicaemia, yolk sac and rotavirus infection, impaction of the gizzard with wood shavings, infectious sinusitis, gapeworm and malignant tumours.

As well as Emtryl, a range of antibiotics is also widely administered. The pheasant industry is thereby contributing to the worldwide threat of antibiotic resistance in human and veterinary medicine.

Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler:

"The rearing and shooting of pheasants is now a major agribusiness that represents not just an assault on the birds themselves but also threatens the health of the unsuspecting consumer. It's time the government stopped passing the buck and faced up to its responsibilities."

Notes to Editors

  • More information from Yvonne Taylor, Andrew Tyler or Kay Holder: 01732 364 546.
  • Video clips accompanying The Killing Fields report are available online in the videos section.
  • We can supply pheasant-rearing, shooting and trapping images in jpeg format.
  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast quality interviews.

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