Reports have highlighted the plight of pheasant and partridge chicks that are transported from France to the UK. When they get here, their eventual fate is to be released on country estates where people pay money to shoot them. Animal rights groups have said that they want to end the shooting industry, but many of the estates are owned and used by rich and powerful people. We tried to find out more…
It’s been discovered that Eurotunnel trains are bringing millions of day-old pheasant and partridge chicks into the UK, ready to be raised on British shooting estates. Birds or animals that are raised to be hunted are known as ‘game’.
Nick Weston, Head of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), told us that the chicks will go on to be “shamefully killed for ‘sport’. The LACS worked with ferry companies in 2015 to help them understand the cruelty of importing ‘game’ bird chicks on their ships. The ferries stopped the imports and we are now asking Eurotunnel to follow suit. What kind of world are we living in where a small number of people think it’s okay to kill millions of birds simply for fun?”
Eurotunnel and ferries are also used to transport hatching eggs, which are fertile eggs that can be incubated and hatched into chicks.
The numbers involved are huge: the Government says that over 15.5 million chicks and hatching eggs were imported from France in 2015. Added to the birds that are born in the UK, this leads to a total of around 35m pheasants and partridges being released to be shot every year, as well as a few hundred thousand red grouse. (Of these, the James Hutton Institute says that 15m pheasants are actually shot, along with 2.6m red-legged partridges and 400,000 red grouse. Millions of birds, especially pheasants, are also killed when they wander onto roads and get run over.)
There are no minimum space requirements for game birds, and a Government study found that partridges were regularly kept in “barren” cages, with space of just 0.2m2 per bird (imagine a square with sides of just 45cm). The birds are often fitted with ‘bits’ in their beaks to stop them pecking each other when they get stressed.
Eurotunnel said it was looking into the transport of chicks, so we asked them twice to tell us what they found and if they were taking any action, but they didn’t reply.
Animal rights organisations in the UK have freed thousands of game birds in recent weeks, as they want to stop people shooting animals for sport. However, many people in the countryside rely on shoots for their jobs. The National Farmers’ Union says that even if you disagree with shooting, it “absolutely does not excuse criminal damage and vandalism”.
For the full report, check out this week’s issue of First News (Issue 674, 17 – 23 May 2019)