THE BLOG

Time to Get Shot of 'Game Bird' Shooting

29/02/2016 11:34 GMT | Updated 01/03/2017 10:12 GMT

When people think of shooting, for some it conjures up nostalgic images of strolling through the countryside, taking in the views, and a delicious roast at the end of the day.

The reality of course is somewhat different. In Britain, the bird-shooting industry is little more than canned hunting. And it is arguably one of the biggest animal welfare issues in the country today.

During the shooting season, a staggering 100,000 birds are killed a day. This is slaughter on a massive scale. But perhaps most shocking of all is the fact that this is largely not for food, but for 'fun'.

We are killing millions of living creatures every year for what can be best described as target practice. Rather than going into the pot, many birds end up in a pit - holes dug to dump 'waste' including spent ammunition cartridges, or in bin liners by the sides of roads.

The partridges and pheasants bred for the shooting industry are exempted from welfare standards introduced for farm birds such as hens. As a result they suffer at every stage of their lives.

Most spend their lives in a cage smaller than an A4 sheet of paper. They are bred abroad and transported for hours in such cramped conditions many die en route.

And all because they're the 'wrong' kind of bird. It sounds like a bad excuse for a delayed train. But it's the treatment that is inexcusable. A bird is a bird is a bird.

Birds aren't the only animals to suffer at the hands of this industry. A staggering 1.7 million wild and domestic animals are caught in gamekeepers' snares in Britain every year. That's one every 20 seconds.

Without recognising the absurd irony, shooting estates lay snares to stop foxes from eating the imported birds - so hunters can shoot them.

Yet snares, as we all know, are cruel and indiscriminate. They are the landmines of the animal world. They catch, maim and kill anything and everything. DEFRA's data shows they are more likely to catch hares and badgers than foxes, the intended target.

A staggering 250,000 of the animals caught in snares - classified as 'other' by the government - include cats and dogs, as well as otters and young deer.

Britain is one of just five European countries that still permits these instruments of torture to be used. Regardless of where one stands on the referendum, this is probably one issue the vast majority of people will agree we should be closer to our European cousins on.

The canned hunting industry like to claim they generate revenue and jobs. Academics have looked at their figures and found them to be, well, a little exaggerated.

But even if one were to take them at face value, one makes a startling discovery. Two-thirds of the ascribed value comes not from killing sentient beings but from shooting clay-pigeons. I have no objection to people going around shooting inanimate objects (within reason). I really don't. I'm not a kill-joy. I just think one shouldn't kill for joy.

And while the industry likes to talk about the purported benefits, they have less to say about the costs. Such as the costs to the taxpayer of gun licences for hunters. Three-quarters of the cost of getting a licence to kill animals for fun is borne by the taxpayer, to the tune of £19 million a year.

Put it another way. Someone going on a £3000-a-day shoot is being given a hand-out by someone earning £11000 a year. I rather suspect taxpayers would prefer the £19 million be spent on the welfare of the birds than on welfare benefits for hunters.

One way to find out is to have a full and independent inquiry into the true costs of canned hunting in the UK.

But let's not wait before acting on snares, or on cages and live transportation of so-called 'game-birds'. It's the 21st century. Surely we recognise that in this day and age there is no place for subjecting birds to unremitting cruelty, or maiming and killing innocent wild and domestic animals, in the name of entertainment?

Don't we?

Take a look at www.league.org.uk/shooting to watch the video that goes with this report. And if you're shocked as I am, please take the actions on the page to help put an end to this industry.