Bloodlust: Images that reveal the shooting industry’s dark secrets

Posted on the 21st November 2008

As the ‘gamebird’ shooting lobby tries desperately to sell its ‘sport’ as a branch of the food industry, fresh images from this year’s shooting season expose the cruelty and wastefulness of this bloodsport.

Gamekeeper’s gibbet: an Animal Aid supporter was walking her dog on a public footpath on All Hallows’ eve. As the path split, she decided to follow the track that leads into the woods, and soon discovered this gamekeeper’s gibbet displaying many dead foxes and crows. Horrified, she left quickly but did manage to capture some images. Stringing up slaughtered wildlife on a Gibbet Line is an ancient rite practised by gamekeepers to ‘ward off’ other wildlife and to ‘protect’ gamebirds until the day of the shoot. Surprisingly, the killing and exhibiting of wildlife in this fashion is not illegal, but the practice does typify the shocking disrespect and wastefulness of the game shooting industry. Every year, more than 40 million pheasants and partridges are bred to be used as feathered targets by shooters. Among the animals viciously eradicated in ’predator control’ programmes are foxes, weasels, stoats and crows. Even rare birds of prey are trapped, snared and poisoned. Perversely, the release of hundreds of thousands of gamebirds into the countryside actually attracts more animals to the area, escalating the scale of slaughter that takes place in the name of ‘sport’.

Dumped birds: our undercover team were coming back from a day’s filming in Somerset when they found, by the side of the road, a large pile of wings, legs, heads and other body parts from shot birds. The killing of pheasants, partridges and other ‘game birds’ for fun is particularly unpalatable to most people, which is why pro-shoot bodies have launched several media campaigns and enlisted the help of celebrity chefs to trumpet the alleged merit of game as a healthy-eating option. They also rely on creating an image of self-sufficiency and frugality, deemed virtuous in times of financial hardship. Our image of the dumped body parts powerfully conflicts with that public relations message. There is also the issue of public health and of showing little or no regard for the significant proportion of the public who would find such scenes distressing and offensive.

Suffering inside and outside the sheds: Our undercover team entered a game farm in Norfolk and found sheds containing live birds amongst the sick, emaciated and dead. Outside, the corpses of birds were piled up. One bird had clearly got trapped and been strangled in an attempt to escape. The shooting industry would have us believe that gamebirds live free and wild, and that they are healthy and happy. The truth is that around 40 million pheasants and partridges are purpose-bred, reared in sheds and released outside for only a very short period of time before they become targets for the Guns.

Near this location, our investigators found a pile of dead foxes. There was also a Larsen trap – a device used by gamekeepers to catch and kill magpies, crows, rooks and jackdaws – with a magpie incarcerated inside. The pictures clearly show the death toll of this brutal ‘sport’, not only to gamebirds but to many other animals as well.

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