The Game Drain: How millions are spent on producing a food that is worth a fraction of its production cost

Posted on the 15th December 2008

As the ‘gamebird’ industry steps up its efforts to promote the ‘sport shooting’ of birds as a wholesome and natural means of food production, a damning new report reveals the massive squandering of resources and animals’ lives that are involved.

Using shooting’s own figures, the new Animal Aid report demonstrates that it costs more than 13 times as much to rear pheasants and get them airborne than the shot bird will fetch retail. And, while approximately 40 million pheasants and partridges are mass produced every year, only 18 million are shot and retrieved. The rest die from starvation, predation, injury or under the wheels of motor vehicles. Having been conditioned to be dependent from birth on their keepers for housing and food, released gamebirds are especially vulnerable to such outcomes.

Of the 18 million who are shot and retrieved, The Game Drain reveals that fewer than eight million are sold to game dealers. The remaining 10 million disappear. It is claimed that they are handed over to shooters or taken by shoot operators. But there is compelling evidence that shot birds are dumped or buried in pits, because of insufficient demand for their flesh.

It is perhaps the discrepancy between the retail price of a pheasant and the cost of rearing and ‘presenting’ a bird for shooting that is the most shocking revelation of The Game Drain. Pheasants typically sell for a little over £2. But getting one bird airborne for shooting costs, on average, £29.50.

Those figures demonstrate that, as a method of food production, the gamebird industry is absurdly inefficient and wasteful. The figures additionally prove that the industry’s true business is to produce birds to serve as feathered targets for wealthy ‘guns’. Eating shot birds is essentially an economic irrelevance. The shooting lobby, however, fears a public and political backlash of the sort that led to the banning of hunting with hounds. As a consequence, it is devoting significant resources into a propaganda effort that equates ‘sport’ shooting with effective food production.

Says Andrew Tyler, Director of Animal Aid: 

‘The Game Drain shows that, even when using the industry’s own self-serving figures, just a fraction of the birds reared for “sport” shooting end up in shops and stores. This reinforces Animal Aid’s argument that gamebird shooting is first, second and third a bloodsport and not a method of food production. The shooting industry’s dishonesty is prompted by the knowledge that most people find killing animals for the pleasure of destroying life deeply unpalatable.’

Watch Animal Aid’s undercover footage from the 2008 gamebird shooting season

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