Shooting industry in the dock

Posted on the 22nd September 2008

A 19-year-old gamekeeper who caught badgers in an illegal trap and then clubbed them to death has been spared jail. Kyle Burden, who also illegally shot buzzards, was sentenced on September 19 by Telford magistrates to 150 hours community service and a six month suspended prison sentence. Burden’s activities came to light when two fellow gamekeepers on the Kempton shooting estate Shropshire reported him to the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO).

The court heard that the NGO failed to act. Both whistleblowers also contacted the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. The BASC referred them to the RSPB.

The court was told that 60,000 pheasants and partridges were released on the Kempton Estate and it was Burden’s responsibility to look after them. He considered the badgers and buzzards to be a threat to the ‘gamebirds’. His defending solicitor claimed that Burden was only doing his duty by his employer.

Burden’s diary indicated that he was responsible for killing hundreds of wild animals. The legal deaths of more than 300 rabbits appeared to be noted alongside coded entries suggesting that he shot 102 buzzards, 40 ravens and 37 badgers.

The Kempton estate is operated by Bettws Hall Hatcheries. It is the largest game farm in Britain and uses the notorious battery cage system for breeding pheasants and partridges. Even the BASC has condemned the contraptions, stating that they have no part in the future of game shooting.

Despite pleading guilty to the offences in August, Kyle was not dismissed from his post by his employer until the morning of his appearance for sentencing.

Animal Aid is calling upon the government to hold shoot operators culpable for illegal persecution of wildlife. One route would be to bring the land owners to court and remove their agricultural subsidy paid by the taxpayer. This has already started to happen in Scotland.

Every year in Britain, around 35 million pheasants and 6.5 million partridge are purpose-bred and released to be shot for pleasure. Millions of indigenous creatures perceived to interfere with the ‘sport’ are trapped, poisoned, and shot. Amoral attitudes in the shooting industry lead gamekeepers like Burden to commit such crimes. In 2006, the market leader weekly, Shooting Times, published a list of the ‘Top 30 Pests’, which included the Golden Eagle, osprey, Red Kite, buzzard and badger.

Animal Aid will be calling on the NGO to explain why it took no action when presented with overwhelming evidence that a gamekeeper was committing criminal offences. We will also question the BASC, asking why it did nothing on its own initiative to defend the shooting standards it supposedly champions.

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