Millions of beautiful pheasants are bred each year, simply to be shot on private estates. But as well as being unkind, the industry means that many pheasants (who have no road sense) are killed or injured each year by cars, and decimate sand lizard populations, due to be over-bred. Pheasants naturally roost in trees where they eat seeds, berries, insects and leaves, and are actually native to Asia, with a load croaky call.
A big issue with pheasant hunts is that it is one of the causes of our land flooding. This is because heather is burned to make the land flat for the birds to run on, but this stops the land absorbing heavy rainfall. The constant quest to level the ground means that peatlands (uneven bogs that absorb water and support endangered wildlife) disappear. Campaigners believe better alternative to non-biodegradable clay pigeon shoots are opening up country estates for visits, which would retain income and jobs.
Burning spaghnum moss and other plants also prevents the storage of carbon dioxide (a process that has taken thousands of years). This in turn can create wildfires, which harm adders, toads and badger cubs. There is presently a voluntary ban on burning heather, but due to vested interests of landowners (often friends with MPs), the government continues to delay action. Former RSPB director Mark Avery says that grouse shoots also endanger other wildlife like mountain hares (they are killed, as they carry mites that affect grouse). And some suspect that endangered hen harriers are also shot, due to being natural predators of grouse. Pheasants that escape being shot are usually kept captive to release again for the next season’s shoot. Environmental writer George Monbiot wrote how odd it was that during his term as Prime Minister, David Cameron tried to charge NHS patients for walking aids and neck braces, yet froze the cost of gun licenses.
League Against Cruel Sports says that pheasants for shoots are raised like factory-farmed livestock, yet humane slaughter rules don’t apply (many red-legged partridges are raised in the same way as battery hens, in cages the same size as an A4 piece of paper). Millions of birds also travel long distances from abroad, to release on shooting estates. Others die naturally in English temperatures, as they are Asian so not used to our weather. Often traps are set to kill predators, which harm other creatures like badgers and dogs. It’s also believed that over 75% of shooters are not skilled enough, so 40% of the birds are wounded rather than killed, left to slowly die where they fall.
How to Help Game Birds
- Don’t buy or eat game birds on the menu. As well as supporting the issues above, some may contain lead shot.
- Report upland burning to RSPB. You can report illegal activity to any creature at Animal Crimewatch or National Wildlife Crime Unit (anonymous, if wished).
- Write to your MP, asking if they are voting in measures to prevent hunting, including the killing of hares and endangered birds of prey. And what their views are on the voluntary (not compulsory) ban on lead shot. You can also see how your MP votes on hunting.