John Lewis staff revolt over pheasants

Posted on the 1st November 2000

11 letters on John Lewis's involvement in pheasant shooting are published in the store group's house magazine, ten of them strongly anti the firm's involvement in the bloodsport.

The John Lewis department store group – which organises pheasant rearing and shooting on its Hampshire estate – is facing a major revolt by staff who are going on record to declare themselves outraged by the company’s activities; 11 letters on the theme are published in the store group’s current house magazine, ten of them want the company to stop the rearing and shooting of pheasants on its Leckford, Hampshire estate.

The Partnership has been adopting something of a siege mentality of late. And who can blame them! In just 5 weeks Animal Aid activists have distributed over 50,000 leaflets warning customers of the Partnerships involvement in bloodsports. There have been protests, both inside and outside their stores, all around the country. Activists in London have done two banner hangs inside the Partnership’s flagship Oxford Street shop. Newcastle protesters went even further and protested naked – except for a skimpy banner – much to shoppers delight.

And its working! Customers, one disgruntled staff member told us, are cutting up their storecards ‘left, right and centre’! The company Chairman, Sir Stuart Hampson, initially tried to defend the shooting club with feeble excuses (you can read the correspondence here) but has now stopped responding to our letters.

Sir: I read in our local newspaper a letter from a shopper who had been handed a leaflet about shooting on the Leckford Estate outside John Lewis Edinburgh last weekend.

I unfortunately share his “disappointment” in the Partnership, being a loyal Partner of many years. I am not a natural protestor, but I am amazed that our usually caring organisation has to be involved in breeding birds in captivity, making them wear special clips on their lips, and then releasing them to be shot.
Yours etc,

Sir: In his reply to letters in today’s Gazette (21 October), Malcolm Crabtree says there are 22 Partners and five retired Partners who shoot pheasants on the Leckford Estate.

Could he please tell us how many of these 27 are, or were, principle directors, how many general managers, how many department and section managers and how many non-management Partners?

Could he also tell us the subsidy these 27 receive?
Yours etc,
BORN TO BE SHOT 21-10-00

Sir: I am a Partner of quite a few years, and not an animal activist, although I believe in fair play for all animals and humans alike.

I read with interest the answer to Realist and A Partner (Gazette, 21 October). Malcolm Crabtree states in the last paragraph that “no political party has indicated any intention to make shooting unlawful”. I thought that shooting would come under The Abolishment of Blood Sports which the present Government is supposed to be bringing in!

Also, Mr Crabtree states that “a small shoot is very much a part of country life”. Are the few who shoot these poor birds country people or townies out for the day? If these 27 Partners/retired Partners like shooting, what’s wrong with clay pigeons!

If the Partnership always encouraged tolerance of differing opinions, as also stated in the reply, would they breed a few Christians to throw to the lions if 27 people wanted that? I think not!
Yours etc,

Sir: I found Mr Crabtree’s reply to Realist and A Partner rather shocking when I found out just how few Partners were making use of the shooting facility.

I am a Partner who has been around long enough to have enjoyed my long leave and am happy to be a carnivore; however, I am wise enough to realise that there are some 5.5 million vegetarians in Britain and another 26 million who find “blood sports” abhorrent. A total of approximately 30 million people who find the actions of the Partnership distasteful!

Now when I joined the Partnership and also when I trained as a Councillor, it was taught that your personal views should be set aside when making any decisions and that you should always make your decision on what is best for the Partnership, so I find it impossible to comprehend why the pleasure of some 22 Partners and five retired Partners should be allowed to prejudice the wellbeing of the Partnership and 37,000 Partners by acting in a way that 30 million potential customers find barbaric.

If these aforementioned Partners and retired Partners must continue their desire to enhance their ego by pointing an offensive weapon into the sky and ‘letting rip’, would it not be possible for them to participate in clay pigeon shooting and stop ruining the reputation of the Partnership?
Yours etc,

Sir: In The Gazette of 20 October, the Managing Director of the Leckford Estate referred to the “shoot” on the Estate. He gave the number of Partners plus retired Partners involved.

Can he confirm that there are no associate members, as I have been at the Abbas during a shoot and the number of guns, dogs and Land Rovers belie the numbers given.
Yours etc,
CURIOUS 26-10-00

Sir: In his reply to the letter from A Partner about shooting at Leckford, Mr Crabtree does not answer the specific question raised, “As we are a democracy how can I get this stopped?”. Please can he answer this question now?

I would also like to raise the question of how much, including breeding, this activity costs per annum as you state that only 29 Partners are involved. As there is currently much cost-cutting in social enjoyment for the rest of us, perhaps this activity could be removed in favour of something benefiting more than 29 people.

Finally, no matter how high the Partnership standards are, nothing can take away the pain and distress caused by being shot.
Yours etc,

Sir: What is all the fuss about the shoot at Leckford?

It is good to see the Partnership courageously upholding its belief in traditional country pursuits. I’m sure this sends out exactly the right message to the majority of our customers. Those few ‘townies’ who protested just don’t understand the therapeutic value of this leisure facility, and they’re probably not our ‘sort’ of customer anyway.
Yours etc,

Sir: At John Lewis we still suffer demonstrations and interference from an animal rights group, who have selected us because of the pheasant shoots at Leckford.

While I have no particular sympathy for this group, who could better use their energies on more important animal rights issues, I do wonder why we continue to dig our heels in on this one.

Clearly we should not give in to pressure on important/business issues. But how many partners are involved in these shoots, and do they belong to a subsidised club?

More than 2,000 of us at John Lewis would be grateful if we stopped being a target.
Yours etc,
LOCAL YOKEL 30-10-00

Sir: Is there a Central Councillor ‘in the house’ who will raise a proposal to ban the Leckford shoot?

I do not mind if they do this on the basis of the continuing damage that our link to this bloodsport does for our trade, or whether they want to end this annual, barbarous act.

Come on, Central Councillors, show us what you’re made of.
Yours etc,

Sir: How old are the birds when they are shot during this “part of country life” that Malcolm Crabtree arrogantly refers to (Gazette, 21 October)?
Yours etc,
R… Undated

The Managing Director, Leckford Estate, comments:
As I have said before, I fully recognise that strong views are held among Partners and customers both in favour of and against shooting game birds. I recognise, too, that those who protest against the Partnership Shoot have caused inconvenience and unpleasantness to Partners in a number of branches, and all of us involved in the Shoot greatly regret that. Nevertheless, it is a lawful activity and, to the best of my knowledge, the only legislation being contemplated by the Government is to outlaw hunting with dogs – not shooting.

The Shoot is managed in accordance with high standards. Birds are reared, and the Shoot operates to, Codes of Good Practice agreed by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and The Game Conservancy. The ‘clips’ are biodegradable and used during rearing to prevent feather pecking. The birds that are shot are between five and a half and 20 months old.

Of the 27 members of the Partnership Shoot, seven are, or were, of general manager or more senior status, 15 are department managers and five are non-management partners. We do occasionally let out Shoot days to non-Partners to generate income, and there are also 20 to 25 beaters and pickers-up who support the Shoot, which explains the point raised by Curious.

I provided a reply to a Gazette correspondent (Silly Wabbit, Gazette, August 1999) setting out the net cost of the Shoot to the Partnership. As I explained then, the Gamekeeping department also carries out other essential work, including vermin control and looking after the majority of Estate woodlands. Apportioning their time to their various duties produces a net cost of the Shoot for the last financial year of approximately £18,000.

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