Gamekeeper cautioned for animal welfare offences at Chargot Estate shoot

Posted on the 21st August 2018

In the run-up to the start of the shooting season, we can announce that a gamekeeper at one of the most exclusive and expensive shoots in the country – the Chargot Estate – has been cautioned for offences under the Animal Welfare Act and the Game Act.

  • Bird left for 44.5 hours without water
  • An injured bird with blood on his beak left unattended
  • Distressed birds flying at the sides of the cages in order to try to escape.

The case was brought following an undercover investigation where we discovered what is known as a ‘ladder trap’, used by gamekeepers to catch corvids (magpies, crows, etc) at the Chargot Estate. Such traps use a decoy or ‘lure’ bird to attract other birds of the same species, who enter the cage trap but cannot escape – their fate is to be killed by a gamekeeper.

The traps are commonly used by gamekeepers in order to keep game birds alive until the start of the shooting season. The game birds themselves are fated to become little more than feathered targets for wealthy shooters. The Chargot Estate charges as much as £2,500 per person on some of its shoot days.

Animal Aid’s undercover work at the estate involved leaving a camera trained on the trap for 44.5 hours continuously between 30 May and 1 June this year.

The trap was visited four times during the recording by the gamekeeper, including one visit of around six minutes to make repairs to the trap.

The trap was baited with corn (or feed) and a dead rabbit. However, the gamekeeper had set the trap without water or a perch for the decoy bird, a clear breach of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and none of the birds in the trap were tended to or given water during his visits. One rook was left in the trap for the duration of the recording without water (and no dish or receptacle for water) or perch.

One of the rooks in the cage trap had blood on his beak, indicating that he had become injured whilst trying to escape the trap. This again is a breach of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Animal Aid’s video clearly shows distressed birds flying at the sides of the cages in order to try to escape.

In addition, a female pheasant had become trapped in the cage trap. She was a non-target bird and should have been released immediately when the trap was inspected.

On 1 June, Animal Aid’s investigator, concerned for the birds’ welfare due to the lack of water and high temperature, released the trapped birds.

Says Fiona Pereira, Animal Aid Campaign Manager:

These disgraceful and cruel traps as well as other types of devices are commonly used by shoots in an effort to kill any wild animal seen to be a threat to the short term survival of game birds. The crows, magpies and rooks who are caught in such traps are beautiful, sentient birds who react with terror to being trapped and desperately try to escape. The public probably has no idea that this green and pleasant land is being ruthlessly stripped of its wildlife for commercial interests.

We wanted to show people what the birds have to experience as they wait out the hours, with night falling and no escape. Their ultimate fate, of course, is to be clubbed to death by a gamekeeper.

We would like to thank Somerset and Avon police force for taking the matter seriously, for acting promptly and for bringing some justice for the birds involved.

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