Investigation exposes gamebirds’ battery cage nightmare

Posted on the 6th September 2005

As the 2005 shooting season rapidly approaches, a new report by national campaign group, Animal Aid, uncovers a new and sickening development within the gamebird rearing industry: battery cages.

While pheasants and partridges have long been mass-produced to be gunned down by ‘sport shooters’, this last year has seen the rapid uptake of punishing battery cage units for confining egg-laying birds.

Animal Aid filmed undercover at four producers – three of which were run by executive council members of the industry trade body, the Game Farmers’ Association.

Here we found – and filmed – scores of thousands of breeding pheasants and partridges, confined for the whole of their productive lives in the kind of battery cages that are being outlawed for poultry hens across Europe, because they are considered to be inhumane.

Animal Aid’s undercover evidence demonstrates that the caged birds suffer a high incidence of emaciation, feather-loss and back and head wounds. Many of the pheasants lunged repeatedly at their cage roofs in a forlorn attempt to escape. The stress engendered by the unnatural conditions also produces high levels of bird-on-bird aggression.

While the existence of the cages has already provoked a bitter rift within the industry, Animal Aid’s investigation makes clear for the first time the extent of cage use and their growing popularity with the major producers.

As a result of earlier evidence on cages presented by Animal Aid to the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the leading lobby group condemned the factory units as ‘incompatible with the future of gameshooting’. But BASC has refused to name and shame those who use them so that its members can operate a boycott. It even advertises two of the battery cage users on its website trade directory.

Said Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

“There is no law specifically governing ‘game bird’ production, only a self-serving industry code of practice. The government – as part of its Animal Welfare Bill proposals – is getting set to adopt this industry code. It would thereby legitimise the most brutal form of factory farming on behalf of an industry dedicated to producing millions of birds every year, so that they can be shot down principally for sport. Many shot birds are not eaten.”

Notes to Editors

  • Animal Aid filmed battery cage units at the following establishments during the 2005 breeding season:
    • G & A Leisure, Bettws Hall Hatcheries, Bettws Cedewain, Powys
    • Heart of England Farms, Henley Road, Claverdon, Warwick
    • Hy-Fly Game Hatcheries, Pilling Lane, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancs
    • Pye Hall Game Farm, Eye, Suffolk
  • An estimated 35 million pheasants are bred for sport shooting every year.
  • Animal Aid is calling for a ban on the commercial breeding of birds for sport shooting.
  • Further information: Andrew Tyler 01732 364546.
  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast quality interviews.

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