Massacre at the Windsor Estate: 7,000 wild animals killed in one year

Posted on the 24th February 2014

More than 7,000 wild animals were killed on the Windsor Estate during 2013, according to a Freedom of Information request by campaign group, Animal Aid. While the figures for January were not recorded due to ‘a change in both staff and regime’, the number of animals killed throughout the rest of the year totalled 7,129.

The victims included:

  • 3901 pigeons
  • 1161 rabbits
  • 772 jackdaws
  • 325 squirrels
  • 191 crows
  • 159 foxes
  • 56 roe deer
  • 28 hares
  • 9 moles

Taken aback by the huge numbers of animals killed at Windsor, Animal Aid believes it is justified in describing the carnage as a ‘wildlife massacre’.

The Crown Estate claims that most of the animals killed (including the pigeons, rabbits and jackdaws) were at the request of the Crown Estate’s tenant farmers. The deer and squirrels were killed at the request of the foresters, while foxes were killed to ‘protect’ game birds (who are reared only to be shot for sport). Moles are killed to preserve the formal gardens and the sports ground.

Animal Aid objected to these claims, saying that it was ‘morally repugnant’ to kill wild animals just to ‘protect’ the lives of farmed pheasants, who would also be killed for sport or to keep lawns pristine. And that the mass destruction of corvids and pigeons was ‘unscrupulous and unnecessary’.

The Ranger of the Windsor Great Park is the Duke of Edinburgh – a man whose passion for shooting live targets for sport is well known. (See Notes to Editors below.) His deputy Ranger is Philip Everett, who is a partner in the land agent company, Smiths Gore, which provides field sports consultants and manages a ‘wide variety of field sports interests from low ground to moorland shoots, deer stalking across a variety of terrain and fishing’. The company even sells shotgun cartridges.1 Mr Everett will leave the Crown Estate in August 2014 but things do not look set to improve for wildlife, as his successor – Paul Sedgwick – is also a keen shooter.2

The killing of 28 brown hares will upset many people who believe that hares are protected. Despite their numbers having declined significantly over the past century, and a Biodiversity Action Plan enacted to try to reverse that decline, hares are still legally hunted and shot.

Animal Aid maintains there are non-lethal solutions to many of the problems cited and that the key problem is a ‘culture of killing in the countryside’, whereby it is seen as acceptable to snuff out the life of any animal deemed not to be serving a useful purpose, and especially any that might pose a risk – however small – to agricultural, forestry and shooting profits.

Says Head of Campaigns at Animal Aid, Kate Fowler:

‘The annual massacre at Windsor is without justification. Across the UK, wild animals are under great threat from industry, road and housing development, climate change, habitat loss, pesticide use and other man-made problems. Rather than looking for humane solutions, one of the richest estates in the country* – managed by individuals who are connected to blood sports – would rather reach for guns, traps and poisons and obliterate animals who get in its way. What about compassion? What about sharing the natural world with the other species who live here, even if that means taking a minor dent in its multimillion pound profits?’

* The Crown Estate’s net revenue surplus (profit) for the year that ended 31 March 2013 was £252.6 million. The Windsor portfolio is valued at £204million.3

Notes to Editors

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, is estimated to have shot at least 30,000 animals and birds, including deer, rabbit, hare, wild duck, snipe, woodcock, teal, pigeon, partridge and pheasant.i Although he has now bowed to public outrage and given up big game hunting, he has in the past taken part in an Indian tiger shoot, despite protests from British and Indian politicians. On that same trip he killed a crocodile and six urials (mountain sheep).ii He continued to enjoy shooting wild boar and travelled to Germany to do so. On one occasion he and Prince Charles are said to have killed 50 wild boar in a single day.iiiPrince Philip regularly invites friends to shoot with him at the Royal Family’s 20,000-acre Sandringham Estate. In a seven-week stay during 1993, he is said to have hit his target of 10,000 pheasants.iv His shooting parties are estimated to have killed about 150,000 pheasant over the last two decades.v The Prince prefers to think of this as ‘cropping’.vi

In 2007, his shooting parties made the news again when a fox broke cover while Prince Philip and his party of seven Guns were shooting pheasants at Sandringham. The animal was shot at least twice but still showed signs of life. A beater clubbed her on the head and, four minutes later, returned to stamp on her.vii In response, Buckingham Palace said only: ‘It was a private shoot so we will not make any comment.’ viii


  1. ‘Smiths Gore Cartridges 2013/14 Season’
  2. ‘Elvetham Estate: The Team’
  3. ‘Annual Report 2013’, Crown Estate

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