Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is leasing out sections of the national forest for commercial shooting – at a huge cost to wildlife, habitat and the public. Thousands of purpose-bred game birds are released each year, putting pressure on other animals, who are forced to compete for resources. To ‘protect’ the pheasants prior to being released for ‘sporting’ guns, woodland is purged of native animals. Shooters discharge tonnes of poisonous lead ammunition, polluting the environment and killing wildlife.
To add insult to injury, the deals between NRW and the shoot operators were agreed behind closed doors and without consulting the Welsh public.
Animal Aid is determined to do all we can to stop pheasant shooting on Welsh public land.
To ensure high stocks of ‘game birds’ on shoot days, NRW’s shoot tenants will use traps, snares or guns to eliminate foxes, stoats, weasels, corvids and rodents. Because, for birds of prey, rodents are an important food source, their numbers become threatened. The result is a significant decrease in biodiversity.
The standard ‘rear and release’ model employed by pheasant shoots involves birds being intensively bred at external sites before being transported to release pens located near to where shooting takes place.
Research has shown that, when the shoots themselves are taking place, around 40 per cent of pheasants are shot down but not retrieved. 1 An uncounted number will remain injured, without veterinary attention to alleviate their suffering, until death overcomes them.
1 Geoffrey Underwood (2007), former Training and Development Officer for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, giving evidence at employment tribunal [Online] Available here.
Every year, shooting tenants release non-indigenous pheasants into woodlands in numbers of up to 5,000 at a time. Such densities are unnaturally high for any bird species, and they result in a strain on food and habitat availability. The ‘rear and release’ approach of the kind deployed on NRW land can have many negative impacts on the natural environment. These include habitat changes that affect flora, hedgerow structure on the woodland fringe and soil composition. The impact is also felt with regard to competition for invertebrate resources.
Toxic lead ammunition is also used at each of the sites. This pollutes the soil, waterways and wildlife. Birds of prey, corvids and mammalian predators can suffer lead poisoning following the consumption of game birds who are shot and not retrieved. Studies looking at the consequences of such poisoning for birds of prey have found increased levels of sickness, death and reproductive failure. 2 3
2 Pain, D.J., Fisher, I.J., Thomas, V.G. 2009. A global update of lead poisoning in terrestrial birds from ammunition sources. In R.T. Watson, M. Fuller, M. Pokras and W.G. Hunt (Eds.) Ingestion of Lead from Spent Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho, USA. DOI 10.4080/ilsa.2009.0108
3 Mateo, R. 2009. Lead poisoning in wild birds in Europe and the regulations adopted by different countries. In R. T. Watson, M. Fuller, M. Pokras, and W. G. Hunt (Eds.). Ingestion of Lead from Spent Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans. The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho, USA. DOI 10.4080/ilsa.2009.0107
Animal Aid first became involved in this issue in October 2015, after a well-placed source told us that NRW wanted to rent out some of its land for the ‘sport’ shooting of pheasants. As our research progressed we discovered that at least five other parcels of land managed by NRW are rented out for shooting. While NRW did not initiate these respective shoot agreements – the different areas of land were leased out by at least one or more predecessor bodies – NRW could have wound down the operations. Instead it expanded them. Furthermore, this decision was made behind closed doors, without any consultation and despite well-worded warnings from key staff. In response to Animal Aid’s campaign and public opposition, the agency has now agreed to review the future of all shoots on its land.