Because of the import restrictions placed on the birds following an epidemic of avian flu, pheasant shoots are being shut down or significantly reduced this year throughout the UK.
Many of the gamebirds shot in the nation are imported from European factory farms. According to experts, this practice has to end or be curtailed since it puts local wildlife and biodiversity at danger and poses a threat to public health.
Farms on the continent typically release less than 50 million pheasants annually. According to a recent study, non-native common pheasants and red-legged partridges account for over half of all wild bird biomass in Britain at their peak each year in August. On October 1st, the annual shooting season starts.
“The most important issue from our perspective is the bird flu problem emphasizes the risks of importing and releasing millions of birds into the British countryside with very little monitoring,” said Jeff Knott, the RSPB’s director for central and eastern England. It is an extremely, extremely uncontrolled industry, and it requires careful examination.
He demanded tighter restrictions on shoots. “Releasing so many birds into the surrounding area carries certain inherent concerns. To ensure that we are not endangering native wildlife, we must consider tighter regulation of the business. Estates are not required to disclose how many are being shot, released, or brought in.
The co-founder of the environmental advocacy group Wild Justice, Mark Avery, said: “This is a wake-up call for shooters. Tens of millions of non-native pheasants being imported is hardly sustainable or traditional. The ecology will gain since so many gamebirds are threatening our natural wildlife. Pheasants destroy vegetation and eat snakes and lizards. The natural fauna will benefit from fewer gamebirds.
In order to make the shooting industry more resistant to import restrictions, shooting estates are using measures such as increasing gamebird breeding on-site.
According to Glynn Evans, head of game and gundogs at the British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC), “Parts of France are suitable areas for game farming and the production of pheasant and partridge eggs for a number of reasons, including the temperature. Movement restrictions have been imposed due to an outbreak of avian influenza in the key game farming regions at a crucial period for such output. The result will have a huge impact on game shooting in the UK this year.
Different shoots will experience this kind of disruption to varying degrees. People who hatch and raise their own birds indoors, for instance, will be mostly unaffected. However, some may be moving forward with scaled-back plans, and we have heard of shoots making the difficult decision to forgo this year’s operations.
The rural economy, including hotels, taverns, and restaurants close to shooting estates, he claimed, would suffer from the decrease in hunting.
“We have encountered challenges before, and this one won’t be the last. Shoots will be examining their supply chains and ways to secure them for the future as bird influenza spreads more widely, Evans continued.
The avian flu outbreak this year in the UK and many other parts of Europe has been the longest and largest ever recorded. Conservationists are concerned because the disease is worrying vulnerable populations of rare bird species in addition to farmed birds.
In Asia, commercial goose farms first saw the extremely contagious disease in 1996. From there, it moved to poultry farms and subsequently to wild birds.
Lead Image: A huge number of the pheasants shot in the UK are imported from factory farms in Europe. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian. This article by Helena Horton was first published by The Guardian on 9 July2022.
What you can do
Support ‘Fighting for Wildlife’ by donating as little as $1 – It only takes a minute. Thank you.
Fighting for Wildlife supports approved wildlife conservation organizations, which spend at least 80 percent of the money they raise on actual fieldwork, rather than administration and fundraising. When making a donation you can designate for which type of initiative it should be used – wildlife, oceans, forests or climate.