New undercover film exposes suffering, death and maggot-infestation in UK ‘game bird’ farms

Posted on the 14th September 2011

On a series of covert visits to ‘game bird’ farms around the country, Animal Aid’s investigators have filmed a large number of dead and ailing birds, as well as the disposal areas of some establishments crawling with maggots.

The footage obtained during the spring and summer records how, step by ugly step, the British ‘game bird’ industry has ‘upscaled’ production methods to the point where direct comparisons with the broiler chicken industry are now appropriate. (See Notes to Editor.)

The revelations come as the national campaign group launches National Anti-Shooting Week (19-25 September), which this year will focus on the increasing industrialisation of pheasant and partridge production for ‘sport shooting’. During the week of action, campaigners will hold a series of local protests, high street information stalls and library displays throughout the UK.

The role of Defra Ministers in facilitating game bird shooting will also come under the spotlight, with protests in the constituencies of Secretary of State Caroline Spelman (Solihull), and Natural Environment and Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon (Newbury).

Similar protests, directed at Jim Paice (Ely) and Lord Henley (Carlisle), will follow. It was Hunting and Shooting Minister Paice who, soon after coming to office, overturned a Labour government ban on battery cages for breeding pheasants. Animal Aid will be demanding Paice be stripped of his other role as Minister for Animal Welfare.

Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler:

‘Thanks to the shooting industry’s deceitful propaganda, a great many people in Britain do not realise that, every year, around 50 million pheasants and partridges are intensively reared especially so that they can be shot for the sheer pleasure of killing them. Most are not eaten. The meagre protection these birds receive during the production phase has been reduced still further, thanks to the callous disregard for their welfare demonstrated by Coalition Defra Ministers. National Anti-Shoot Week is a chance to hold them accountable for their actions.’

Further Information

Watch the footage of the undercover investigation

Pictures from the investigation

Notes to Editors

  • For media interviews, please contact Andrew Tyler or Kit Davidson on 01732 364546.
  • Annual partridge and pheasant ‘output’ is approximately 50 million birds – an increase of more than a third in less than a decade. And rearing sheds can now hold thousands. At Cheshire Game Supplies in Shropshire, our investigator filmed 18 massive sheds, each containing around 10,000 birds. Inevitably, there were many dead and dying chicks.
  • But even this enterprise is dwarfed by the Bettws Hall operation in Powys, which has been the subject of earlier Animal Aid investigations, relating to its use of battery cages for breeding birds. According to Shooting Timesmagazine (June 22, 2011), the company boasts that it will this year market 3.75 million pheasants and partridges, produced by a 30,000-strong flock of breeding birds.
  • One of the game producers our investigators visited this year was Wrekin Game in Shropshire, owned by Jonathan Crow, chairman of the trade body the Game Farmers’ Association (GFA). As well as dead and dying chicks, we found wheelie bins full of maggot-ridden adult birds, chicks and eggs. The Crow business has failed to pay business rates since it was founded 18 years ago. It will have to do so from now on, as a result of Animal Aid’s intervention.
  • We found more dead and mortally injured chicks at Worcestershire Game Farm (in Worcestershire), owned by the GFA’s Head of Welfare, Paul Jeavons.
  • Still more were filmed at Westfield Farm in North Yorkshire, including a chick whose raw-looking head was devoid of any feathers, and another chick trapped under a water pipe. At Westfield, our investigator also filmed: plastic sacks and floors crawling with maggots; vast quantities of eggs and dead newborn chicks spilling out of sacks and bins onto the ground; and older dead birds stuffed into cardboard boxes, buckets and sacks. The operator of Westfield Farm, Michael Wood, is also director of a local shoot, run by York Sport Ltd. Both Wood and York Sport were fined £40,000 on 8 September 2011, with £125,000 costs, for causing damage to North York Moors National Park – a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The court heard that the damage was done by the shoot releasing too many birds into the wooded valley, which is renowned for its wild daffodils. Without the permission of Natural England, York Sport had also erected a car park, bridges and feeding devices.
  • Industry statistics (Shooting Times, January 19, 2011) reveal that it costs at least 100 times more to produce a pheasant and to get that bird airborne than the shot bird will earn for the shoot when sold to a dealer. This is clear evidence, if more were needed, that this is an industry dedicated to production for ‘sport’ rather than for food.

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