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GREED AND EXCESS TEARING SHOOTERS APART
Posted 27 September 2001
Pheasant shooting industry leaders forced to admit: 'Greed and excess are tearing us apart'
So many pheasants are being factory-reared in order to satisfy the base instincts of a new breed of vain and boastful gunman, that millions of birds are going uneaten. Many are being buried in specially-dug holes in order to dispose of the embarrassing evidence of excess. Huge numbers of birds also end up mown down by traffic.
This wretched picture of modern 'sport shooting' in Britain comes from several of the industry's own leading lobbyists, writing recently in magazines for fellow gun enthusiasts. Their own incriminating testimony is contained in a revealing new report published by national campaign group Animal Aid to mark the start of the pheasant shooting season on October 1.
Last September, Animal Aid produced a landmark exposé of the pheasant rearing and shooting industry called The Killing Fields, which was backed by graphic undercover footage. At the time, The Killing Fields report was rejected by industry spokespeople as fanciful and extreme. But during this past year, leading shooting figures have been forced to admit that greed, macho posturing and a callous disregard for the lives of their quarry and for the wider environment are jeopardising the future of the industry.
Unburdening themselves in specialist journals such as Shooting Times, The Countryman and The Field, one commentator even wrote despairingly of 'Britain's game mountain'. The consequences of such over-production include 'crop damage, soil erosion round release pens and a greatly increased risk of disease' within the rearing sheds, according to an editorial in Country Life magazine.
In response to the evidence assembled by Animal Aid, Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker commented:
"Most people believe that shooting is about killing a bird for the pot. This is no longer the case. Today, it is about blasting birds out of the sky for some kind of twisted pleasure. This gluttony of firepower is killing huge numbers of birds and causing environmental damage. Even shooters themselves are now expressing concern about these bloated and unsustainable practices.
"Moreover, these practices are bringing shooting into disrepute. Traditional shooters are being swamped by the new style of braggarts who feel that more birds killed means the more there is to brag about."
Mr Baker is to ask a series of Parliamentary Questions that test the regulatory framework governing the 'sport'.
One man who has first-hand experience of the damage and mayhem caused by the wanton bird slaughter is West Country woodlands owner, Theo Hopkins. He told Animal Aid:
"Once, I was a 'townie' and thought shooting was a respectable and even humane country sport. Now, after eight years of first renting my wood to a shoot and then just watching things, I know it is, for many people, just a matter of how many birds can one kill in a day. It's a bloodsport here, not a fieldsport - a cross between a semi-intensive chicken farm and a fairground shooting booth. It is time to have this wanton slaughter stopped."
Said Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler:
"The image of pheasant shooting presented to the world at large is one of self-discipline and respect for the countryside. But the admissions made by leading bird-shooting advocates to their fellow enthusiasts suggest the industry fears it is ensnared in a major crisis of its own making and from which recovery is far from certain."