Undercover investigation reveals partridges in barren, unenriched metal cages on Suffolk game farm

Posted on the 27th August 2020

An unnamed game farm, operating outside the village of Brome Street, near Eye in Suffolk, has been keeping partridges used for breeding purposes in barren, oppressive cages – contrary to government welfare guidelines.

An Animal Aid undercover investigation conducted at the farm in July found rows of what are known as raised laying cages containing pairs of partridges. The cages are in breach of the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes, because they were entirely barren and without any enrichment for the birds.

At the farm, there were also pheasants – who are penned in groups, with several females and one male bird, in cages that had a nesting box but nothing else to enrich the lives of these birds. Many of the female birds had ‘shrouds’ over their beaks – these are used by game farmers to stop the birds attacking each other. Many of the birds were in poor condition, suffering feather loss which is typically caused by the stress of their confinement.

These types of farms hold game birds known as ‘breeding stock’ – that is, birds who lay eggs, which are then hatched, and the resulting game birds will become feathered targets for shooters. The shooting season for partridges starts on 1 September and the pheasant shooting season starts on 1 October.

The use of raised laying cages has increasingly become the norm in game farming, because the systems are largely automated.

However, the cages cause a host of physical problems – such as foot problems because of the mesh floors as well as mental stress from the confinement. The birds repeatedly fly upwards into the cage roofs, in a futile effort to escape, often causing injuries to their scalps.

 

The egg laying season will have come to an end, but many farms keep on their breeding stock until the following season.

An Animal Aid petition calling for a ban on the use of cages for breeding game birds has already mustered more than 6,000 signatures.

Fiona Pereira, Campaign Manager at Animal Aid stated:

‘Sadly, what we discovered at this establishment is not uncommon and reflects the state of the game farming industry in the UK. Game farms are not inspected by the government agencies unless a complaint has been made, which means that the industry is virtually unregulated. Because game farms operate to maximise efficiency and profit, the welfare of the birds incarcerated at these places comes a poor second.

‘Animal Aid opposes the shooting industry and the killing of animals for sport – but we campaign for and urge the government to ban the use of these oppressive metal cages immediately because of the suffering and stress they cause the birds who are imprisoned in them. We urge the public to lend their support by signing the petition.’

Notes to Editors:

  • Read the article in The Independent
  • For more information, contact us
  • Animal Aid has a strict investigations policy which adheres to biosecurity measures, obtains access to premises without causing any damage to property and seeks to ensure that no stress is caused to animals at sites visited.
  • The game farm was located on land Southeast of Brome Hall Lane and South of Upper Oakley.
  • Animal Aid reported the game farm to the Animal and Plant health Agency and Suffolk Council on 16 July.
  • A list of the issues reported is available on request.

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