Wild Justice in the news again – challenging gamebird releases

See this piece by Patrick Barkham in the Guardian.

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39 Replies to “Wild Justice in the news again – challenging gamebird releases”

  1. I’m not going to teach my granny to suck eggs, but if I did I might ask that the very first point needing looked at was the amount of intensive agriculture needed to produce the feed to artificially raise gamebirds. This is not only cereal, but can include soymeal. Given that, it’s entirely possible that UK game shooting is contributing to rain forest loss and even driven grouse shooting isn’t guilty of that! Any shoots that depend to any degree on artificially raised birds even if the actual shoot meets the very highest of conservation practices, is still dependent on and a driver of intensive agriculture – a proper eco footprinting analysis would not be likely to get a green thumbs up. I contacted Martin Harper a few years ago and said the RSPB on these grounds should have a moratorium on proclaiming ANY shoot good for wildlife until this was looked into. As the birds are therefore a product of intensive agriculture, for part of their lives categorised as livestock and released into the countryside with the express purpose of being shot AND eaten then any that don’t reach the dinner plate should be identified as food waste – thereby resource use and abuse and loss of space for wildlife for no practical human benefit. Incidentally I worked for Calor Gas for a while and know that pheasant rearers can and do use it to keep their birds warm and cosy. Certainly warmer and cosier than some families I’ve met.

    Then there’s the issue of shoots still planting out non native invasive plant species to provide game cover (a lot of our infestations of rhododendron probably started out that way). There are certainly nurseries still advertising cherry laurel and snowberry for sale as game cover, both are very aggressive invasive species – there are examples on my home turf. It’s only because I stumbled on a copy of a letter from Hugo Straker of the then GCT dated Feb 2007 on the internet that I became aware of the scale of this issue. The letter was to the govt re the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act about non native species. Hugo argued that planting out species such as cotoneaster, snowberry, salmonberry and Japanese rose should still be allowed for game cover in areas that weren’t of high conservation value (well they certainly wouldn’t be when swamped with these species!). Given the massive problem they and other species are already causing I just couldn’t believe the complacency, arrogance and delusion of that attitude – wasn’t the ecological nightmare of rhododendron enough? I know that guidelines in Scotland give dispensation for planting non native species out as game cover crops, but I believe that game cover is a different issue, shelter rather than feed? Whether there’s a genuine loophole, proper dispensation or weak application of the law caused by confusing terminology there’s absolutely no ******* way that the ‘next rhododendrons’ like cherry laurel and snowberry should be planted out absolutely anywhere least of all to keep gamebirds dry! The Woodland Trust have acknowledged that invasive plants are a major threat to our woodlands and that historically a lot of that started for game cover planting. I think this is something that Wild Justice could look into, the credibility of this sector’s role as an agent for conservation is just shot to absolute hell by this. When they should be taking the lead on fighting this problem instead of vilifying corvids and sparrowhawks, they are making it worse. I’ve repeatedly raised this point with Songbird Survival as a far likelier cause of crashing songbird populations by loss of their invert food supply than loss to their natural predators. Not surprisingly that was a waste of time. I know I’ve raised these issues before, but they’ve never been as relevant to the blog as they are today so I couldn’t help myself and hope I can be forgiven for parroting! Wild Justice is magical.

  2. Fantastic. I hoped they would. Pheasant eat our insects reptiles and seed. I’m too enormous an amount for it not to be detrimental to our native wildlife

  3. I live next door to a pheasant shoot and agree that this activity should be looked at for its effect on the environment. When my young children come across Larsen traps yards from my house it is a disgrace. My neighbours found 3 dead foxes and a chunk of venison stuffed under a manhole cover in our local woods. Landowners should be ashamed to be hiring low paid workers with the remit of year round destruction of whatever local wildlife they see fit – all for a few days shooting of farm bred non-native species. I do not think it is ‘proper’ hunting either, more like target practice. Of course money is involved…

  4. Brilliant! My money will be on its way shortly.

    The EU Habitat’s Directive is also supported by Article 11, Birds Directive 2009: which states that “Member States shall see that any introduction of species of bird which do not occur naturally in the wild state in the European territory of the Member States does not prejudice the local flora and fauna. In this connection they shall consult the Commission.” I don’t know what consultations have taken place and how to obtain that information.

    It is also supported by Regulation No 1143/2014 October 2014 on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species which requires Member States to commit to regularly review the list of invasive alien species of the Union (Article 4). There was a recent review.

    In addition, the EU Biodiversity Strategy, Target 5 requires that by 2020, invasive alien species are identified, priority species controlled or eradicated, and pathways managed to prevent new invasive species from disrupting European biodiversity. (52011DC0244). It is accompanied by two specific actions to tackle the threat of invasive alien species.

    Action 15: Make sure that the EU Plant and Animal Health legislation includes a greater concern for biodiversity.
    Action 16: Provide a legal framework to fight invasive alien species

    In my opinion, there is a good case to be made that the impact of the release of huge numbers of pheasants on the local fauna and flora should be reviewed with a view to adding pheasant to the list of invasive species and banning the release of these birds into the countryside.

    An environmental assessment of the type you are suggesting would be in line with the obligations imposed on the UK government under Article 5(e) and 11 Birds Directive 2009, Article 4 Invasive Species Directive 2014, and the EU Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora.

    Good luck and thanks again for doing such a brilliant job at outing these people and the government.

  5. Good work, and good luck. I’ll add my ££ contribution. Getting pheasant considered on GL conserving fauna and flora is also something that should be pursued. I did once try and propose pheasant on the GL because of the harmful economic impact on an open garden business but made little progress. Time to try again.

  6. We eat 2 million chickens .. a day ! raised in appalling conditions and drip fed antibiotics. wheres your justice ?

    1. Steve O – I don’t eat chicken very often, and in fact, hardly at all.

      According to your argument we could not release 43 million Pheasants each year but instead send them to the butchers. Of the 43 million release about 13 million are shot – almost all with lead which is a poison. The gamebird market is so stuffed that game dealers are now sometimes asking to be paid to take the carcases away rather than paying for the valuable meat. So an unknown proportion of the 13 million find their way into the human food chain. And of the 30 milion or so not shot – their meat is wasted except it feeds the range of generalist predators such as Red Foxes and Carrion Crows that gamekeepers then try to shoot or trap.

      That isn’t the point of our legal challenge but it illustrates the pointlessness of heasant releases so that birds can be used for target practice.

      1. Hi Mark
        Thanks for replying..I am in the fortunate position of only eating hens that have free ranged and fattened on my croft, also mutton and duck, along with wild meat [mostly Rabbit] I certainly do not want to see Pheasant factory farmed. Im quite old and have never heard of anyone becoming ill through eating lead shot game, By my calculations there is about one Pheasant per acre in the UK !. The game dealers cant sell game at peak times because the demand is filled, we need to eat more game instead of factory farmed chicken..All pheasant enters the food chain one way or another, it feeds carrion eaters such as Red Kite etc and eventually helps increase the invertebrate numbers due to decomposition. A lady mentions veganism, does she really want to live in a world without farm animals ? because no farmer is going to tend animals for no return also how much Brazilian rain forest has to be cleared to make soy burgers.. A long while ago I asked myself which would I rather be, a factory farmed hen or a free range Pheasant..

    2. You’re right – that needs addressing but so does this. Best go veggie or vegan and that’ll sort it all out!

    3. A million wrongs won’t make one right, and in fact if society tolerates one blatant stupidity then there are chances it will do so for others. I don’t think raising and releasing pheasants to be shot in ‘the wild’ helps chickens very much TBH. I once read a couple of shooters on social media using the upswell of public awareness on the dangers of plastic waste in the sea to criticize the conservation sector for campaigning against lead shot when it could have been campaigning on the former. The point escaped them of course that if they hadn’t been campaigning FOR lead ammunition they could instead have been concentrating their efforts on fighting marine plastic too, and conservationists would have one less environmental pollutant to worry about and be able to spend more time fighting another.

      1. hi Les Wallace
        My point was to uncover the hypocrisy of those decrying others for killing and eating game whilst munching away on an unfortunate bird that was never allowed to see the light of day. As you point out in your lead shot e.g. [paraphrased] The point escapes them, instead of campaigning against game shooting. why not concentrate your efforts to fight, exporting our plastic waste to third world countries, global warming, factory farming, knife crime, etc etc. … any number of worthwhile causes

        1. steve o – there’s always another cause to champion, that is never a reason for not championing a good one.

        2. There are quite a few things I support and others that bother me that I’m against – so I do bits and pieces either waving the flag for one thing or justifiably pointing the finger at others. The same as many others who comment on this wonderful blog. The point is if we can’t stop what should be the extreme idiocies of driven bird shooting, grouse and pheasant, what chance with the multi, multi pound ‘over’ plastics industry (that which makes money for plastics company, but serves no real purpose for humanity), turning ancient forest into super fluffy toilet paper or getting people to drive smaller cars? If we can’t pick the lowest hanging fruit of all what hope for the rest? Keeping my head down and bow sawing invasive cherry laurel in the wood that was my playground when I was a kid and saying nothing about the shooting estates that are still planting it out as game cover would be a bit silly wouldn’t it? On the other hand if the GWCT and others turned round and said ‘Sorry for all that bloody rhododendron, Japanese rose and snowberry choking out native plants, insects and other wildlife we all know better now and in fact we are asking our supporters to put their guns back in their cabinets for a while, roll up their sleeves and help remove what’s already there’, then that would be one hell of a result.

          1. I agree with many of your points but a quick google will testify that most of the ancient forests you enjoy are there because of, or for hunting originally.. as an after thought i have spent many years trying to rectify reckless planting of non native flora…… and fauna

        3. Hi Steve I think we all should welcome campaigning to support the welfare of animals and the environment.

          Aren’t we all hypocrites to a certain degree? I certainly am but I do my best and I’m pleased that we have so many lovely people commenting on this blog and campaigning against the huge vested interests that you and Les have highlighted.

          Good for you. Good for Les.

          1. Hi Lizzy, Cant argue with the fact that we are all hypocrites, My only campaign is that people see through the hype and make balanced decisions and then act.. I dont shoot game but do live in a fragile rural community, and it could be the case that a ban on shooting would also effect many people outwith the shooting community such as hotels, restaurants, shops etc. I would like to see a compromise that is good for both wildlife and the community

  7. I think WJ may have bitten off more than they can chew on this one, their crowd funders will have to dig deep into their pockets for this fight, perhaps Mr Packham could put his hand into his very wealthy pockets and help out instead of sponging of the general public for his personal fight against the upper class as he sees it.

    1. Mr Packham sponging! He’s asking for donations. He’s not expecting Joe Public to give money simply for owning land. I think you need to target your criticism at shooting estates and farmers!

    2. Aah “Countryman”. Another who labours with the pathetic, discredited idea that the location of one’s home adds weight to their ignorant and dishonest tripe.

  8. Great idea, I for one will contribute, I have said for some considerable time that we should do as the Dutch have done and ban the release of alien gamebirds. For Countryman’s information this is not class warfare but getting the government to do its proper job under laws and regulations already in place but then describing it as such is probably his only defence!

  9. Well, you’ve certainly shaken the tree, Mark. For probably the first time dislikes outnumbering likes – after the general license shooting may be waking up at last to the fact it in real trouble – and as I predicted way back, the relatively limited issue of driven Grouse seems, in the face of complete intrangisence on the part of the Grouse shooters, to have grown into a much wider debate encompassing game shooting more generally.

  10. I will not be contributing one penny and look forward to the day when Wild Justice loses a case in Court and have to crowd fund the legal costs …

    Also for the day when Chris Packham is replaced by the BBC by somebody like Steve Backshall

    1. Karen A – our costs will be capped at £10k if we lose – that element is built into the crowdfunding total.

      All your comments are dull and nasty – welcome back.

  11. Delighted this is being pursued. That many birds, and at such high densities must be having an effect. However, before I part with my hard-earned cash, I would like to know exactly which government decision is being challenged….I like to understand the details. Thanks.

    1. Greenfly – this is a bit different. Because the government has not decided to do an assessment there is scope for challenging that non-decision.

      1. Thanks, Mark. Didn’t know that was possible…and I’ve now found the relevant part of the Directive. Looks pretty clear. Donation on its way!

      2. Having just looked at the crowd funding page I’m now confused again. On the crowd funding page it talks about assessments on individual European sites (which I imagine that Natural England already do when there are new proposals). I had assumed you were going for Article 22(b) of the Habitats Directive which says that Member States shall “ensure that the deliberate introduction into the wild of any species which is not native to their territory is regulated so as not to prejudice natural habitats within their natural range or the wild native fauna and flora and, if they consider it necessary, prohibit such introduction. The results of the assessment undertaken shall be forwarded to the committee for information”

        1. Greenfly – it doesn’t say ‘individual’ sites. But I’m not the QC on this team!

          Thanks for the suggestions.

  12. I may contribute a nominal sum,to help ascertain the damage I have inflicted on the British
    countryside these last thirty odd years.

  13. Well done to WJ on another great initiative. I have contributed to the fund.

    I’ve read the interesting comments above. Those who suggest that it’s questionable to object to the pheasant industry if you eat chicken have a good point. My answer is – don’t eat chicken either. All intensive meat is fed using cropland which could feed many times as many people if it grew crops for direct human consumption, which woud greatly reduce the total agricultural land required to keep everyone well fed. So the best way to make more space for nature on the planet is to eat more plants and fewer animals. If we do this, land which is only suitable for grazing (such as most of the west and north of the UK, and vast tracts of land all over the planet) is not needed for agriculture at all. But it’s very much needed by all the species that lived there before farmers recently arrived and degraded the native ecology. Before I became a vegan marathon runner, I did not realise that animal products are simply entirely unnecessary for excellent health and fitness. Plus, I can oppose pheasant shooting without any whiff of hypocrisy 🙂

    1. hi Phil Davies On a personal level i find veganism an honest approach if not slightly gullible. The points I raised earlier still stand, Do you want to live in a world without any farm animals. when do we start killing and burying them, what about the ecosystems that rely on animal grazing I live in a spp rich environment, which is rich because livestock are brought in from the hill each winter and grazed. If you can live on home grown veg great, sadly an entire population of vegans will amount to vast tracks of land given over to mono crops without the diversity we currently enjoy. However I would like to see animals treated with the respect they deserve not as a source of fast food to be discarded at will. by all means lets enjoy meat but from less intensive farming systems. Again, personally I think that wild meat such as Rabbit or Pigeon is as ethical as it goes, both are an Agricultural pest with the former not even native

    2. From what I’ve read only a third of the birds raised for ‘sport’ shooting actually get shot for human consumption. I suspect this is an over estimate and many a brace of pheasant given to a shooter get chucked over a hedge on the way home as several people have reported. Given these birds have been raised on feed produced by farming this is equivalent to someone buying three chickens at Tesco and on the way home chucking two out of the car window. The remaining chicken may be wasted to a greater or lesser degree as any food that gets as far as the kitchen still can. If pheasants receive feed for longer than your typical broiler chucked does then that’s even more against pheasant shooting as a supposed ecological as well as ethical alternative to eating chicken. Yes meat eating does carry a high environmental cost, but rearing pheasant and partridge to be released to be shot is a bigger one still and carries additional burdens on the land and wildlife. Those claiming to be superior because they eat shot pheasant instead of chicken are talking out of their parson’s nose.

      1. Les, Hmm, a thorough cost comparison between Pheasant meat and Chicken meat production. that would be very interesting [ a good project for a student ] As i said earlier most pheasant meat should enter the food chain, if not for human consumption at least in some way, albeit as food for other wild animals including invertebrates. I will also assume that a fair proportion of Pheasant food is devoured by songbirds etc, simply because of the way it is fed [ i could be wrong because i have never done it] no superiority claim from me, I prefer to let others make their own choices

        1. Thanks for bringing up the old chestnut about wild birds being fed from what’s put out for pheasant. First of all I’m going back to my point that ALWAYS get’s sidelined. These partridge and pheasant are raised to a large extent with the use of feed, but only a small proportion are actually eaten therefore the farmland used to put a gamebird on the table is far, far greater than that for a domestic chicken yes? That’s what’s called a bloody great cost in land, herbicide, pesticide, fertiliser and associated run off. Now back to those lovely, sweet little birdies that the kindly shoot people are caring for by chucking grain at pheasant and partridge. They and hundreds and fact thousands of other species have come to straitened circumstances in the first place primarily through the demands of intensive farming, incidentally, a third of the food produced goes to landfill and a lot of feed goes to gamebirds ending up as roadkill or fox fodder, so same thing. Saying that some birds will be compensated because they will be fed grain from the farming that deprived them and other wildlife of habitat is a bit of a Month Python set up TBH. Thousands of invertebrates and plant species aren’t benefitting from this and even with the sweet little birdies in summer most will need to feed insect protein to their young which would have come from their natural habitat, cereal feed for pheasant won’t help them with that. Like driven grouse shooting these mass pheasant and partridge shoots are an enormously wasteful and damaging form of farming because ‘fun’ is the real crop.

          1. hi Les, Do you in some way live outside intensive farming ? You eat what ?. it may have escaped you but grain and other “stuff” is the feed that fattens the Sunday roast. What on earth does driven grouse shooting have to do with intensive farming? One of the good things about game shooting is the planting of cover crops which must help other animals. and yes dropped grain at harvest and before, provides food for a host of birds. You should look at the mass production of the veg for our tables if you want to look at waste, insecticides and run off. your last line is the give away “fun” is the bit you hate

  14. I once entered a small copse in Dorset, way off any well-used paths, anticipating an interesting ground flora. What I found was a horror story; the ground was literally moving with the vast number of pheasant poults swarming over it. The whole understorey had been trashed by these birds, ground flora and any invertebrates it supported crushed or eaten. Until that time I had always had a neutral view of pheasant rearing activities, never having seen the effects of large scale, commercial releases. Needless to say my views have changed!

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