Archive for Shooting & Snaring

Wake up, Lembit!

On Wednesday last week – with only a few hours of parliamentary time remaining – the Liberal Democrat PPC and ‘Middle Way Group’ chairman, Lembit Öpik, tabled an Early Day Motion on the rearing of game birds. It says:

“That this House notes the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes as laid before the House on 15 March 2010; believes that the guidelines in the Code are at variance with the three options which formed part of the consultation on the draft Code prior to its submission to the House; further believes that this incomprehensible and unilateral change to the Code invalidates the consultation process and significantly undermines the quality of the Code particularly in regard to guidelines on cages; and calls on the Government to withdraw the Code and to reformulate it in line with the feedback from experts and practitioners in the rearing of gamebirds.”

The purpose of an Early Day Motion is to get signatures, which is difficult in the extreme when you publish your EDM just hours before parliament ends. But the most bizarre consideration is that it’s taken Lembit almost a month from publication of the Code of Practice to get the EDM laid. Where has he been for the last month?

Some might wonder what his motivation is. That’s easy. His Montgomeryshire constituency includes the Bettws Farm game empire, recently the subject of a League exposé.

PS: The website for the Muddled Way Group; sorry, ‘Middle Way Group’ appears to have disappeared. Let’s hope the Group has disappeared too.

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Parliamentary Briefing – March 2010

Our monthly Parliamentary Briefing has been published today, and send to all MPs, Peers, and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates.

Download the Parliamentary Briefing – March 2010.

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Snaring Motion in Scottish Parliament

Irene Oldfather MSP yesterday tabled the following motion in the Scottish Parliament.

Northern Ireland Committee Votes to Ban Snares: That the Parliament congratulates the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Environment Committee for taking decisive action to end the suffering to animals caused by snares; welcomes that the Committee has voted to ban snares under the new Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill, and in doing so has taken a policy decision based on the clear evidence that snares cause suffering, and the overwhelming public support for an end to the use of these cruel, indiscriminate traps; therefore congratulates the League Against Cruel Sports for its efforts in raising awareness of the issue and presenting evidence of the cruelty of snaring to support this decision.

The Parliament is currently in recess and so other MSPs can’t sign the motion until they return next week. But, if you live in Scotland, that doesn’t stop you writing to your MSP now to ask them to sign it when they get back!

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Northern Ireland Committee votes to ban snares

The Northern Ireland Assembly’s Environment Committee has this morning voted for a complete ban on the use of snares in Northern Ireland. The forthcoming Wildlife & Natural Environment (NI) Bill will include legislation to put this ban into force.

The results of a new poll, released today by the League Against Cruel Sports, show massive support for a total ban on snares in Northern Ireland.

An overwhelming 82 per cent of those polled, by Ipsos MORI, think the use of snares should be illegal, while only 11 per cent are in favour of their use.

The results also show people in both rural and urban areas want to see an end to the use of snares with 84 per cent of people supporting a ban in rural parts of Northern Ireland and 81 per cent in urban areas.

So barbaric are snares that only 17 per cent are aware that they are still legal and it was commonly assumed they had been banned.

Snares are thin wire traps used mainly on sporting estates to protect game birds being reared for shooting. The League is campaigning for an end to snaring on the grounds they are cruel, indiscriminate and cause unnecessary suffering to animals.

The League’s Northern Ireland Campaigner Mary Friel said: “These figures come as absolutely no surprise as we are well aware of the strength of feeling on this issue in Northern Ireland, and we are delighted that the Committee has taken the decision to base their policy on clear public opinion. The fact that more than eight out of every ten people support a ban should send a clear message to politicians that snaring must be consigned to the history books.

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£60 for a night’s carnage, anyone?

The League is appalled to discover that a ‘fox shooting’ trip is being sold on ebay. The seller is charging a minimum of sixty quid for “a night’s rabbit/fox hunting with an experienced guide”. This disgusting offer is accompanied by some pictures of dead foxes and rabbits to show what the outcome of a night’s shooting might be.

Other disturbing items for sale on ebay include DVDs with footage of foxes being torn apart. One seller promises some “excellent footage of the dogs on the foxes and the great speed at which they bring them down.” One can only imagine the kind of sick individual who would enjoy watching this kind of footage.

The League has issued a complaint to ebay about the advertisement of a fox shooting trip on its site. Let’s hope they take the same responsible action as did Facebook two weeks ago.

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Game bird welfare

This week’s note from Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive.

Governments move in mysterious ways sometimes. This week it was the result of the game bird welfare consultation. The Government decided, a decision that we agree with, that the conditions under which game birds were being bred and reared led to poor bird welfare.

DEFRA acting on behalf of the Government took a similar approach to that taken with battery bred poultry. Rather than ban the use of cages all together it simply decided to radically increase the amount of space per bird. The shooters were somewhat predictably up in arms about the changes which come in on 1 October because they will make this 2010 to 2011 season the last in which such intensive rearing methods can be used in England and Wales.

The Countryside Alliance fulminated about the changes and even suggested that no change would be necessary if bits were used to prevent the birds kept in intensive conditions from seeing one and other. Seemingly they were as blind to the welfare and normal behaviour needs of the birds, as the birds which they would prefer were restricted in vision in their intensive rearing conditions.

The shooters claim to be concerned about the loss of trade to France where such restrictions on cage size do not currently apply. Their problem is that because they market game meat as the next best thing to organic free range poultry production they can hardly compete with imports by using a slogan like, intensively reared in France but killed for sport in England. Not a good seller!

There has been some shocking news coverage of late about the working conditions in abattoirs and meat plants. None of the coverage that I saw picked up on what I would have thought was the most obvious point of all. Namely that if people are called on to work with animal carcasses day after day, some so freshly killed that they are still warm and the carcasses can still twitch spasmodically, the only way that they can cope is to shut down normal human sensitivity. As a result behavioural norms are also shut down and abuse and cruelty can become common place.

Traditional hunting with its chase and kill by dogs is no less of a slaughter process than an abattoir or a meat plant, but because it has been ritualised and turned into a blood sport, people often fail to recognise the bloody business that it really is. In both cases an animal is entered into the system at one end and a disembodied carcass emerges at the other end. Daily exposure to such suffering and killing surely must coarsen and desensitise the hunters to the suffering of the hunted.

What distinguishes an abattoir from a traditional hunt is that there are inspections and licensing regimes; that procedures are put in place to minimise animal suffering and that if there is gratuitous cruelty, or the licensing conditions are not adhered to, people are sacked and plants are closed down. Yet what all the recent coverage has told us is that regulations are flouted, cruelty and suffering is rife and the people in the plants are exhibiting abnormal and unacceptable behaviour patterns, perhaps as a result.

In hunts where no such regulations apply to the hunters’ treatment of wild mammals for sport, cruelty abounds. Animals are deliberately chased with packs of dogs to provide a spectacle and sport for a paying crowd of followers.

Hunting for sport is nothing less than the commercialisation of animal suffering. It is no wonder that some of those closely involved in the ritualised and serial abuse of animals with dogs for sport, lose the plot and themselves become violent and abusive, to both people and animals.

There has been a steady procession of thugs associated with hunts to court and a stream of convictions for violence, abuse, harassment, dangerous driving and a host of other crimes. It is no secret that some of our best tip offs about illegal hunt activity come from the people who live with or near to these damaged animal abusers, but who are too scared of them and or of what they might do to them and their families, to take them on themselves. There is a deep ugliness about the tendency to violence that goes with animal abuse for sport. If causing such suffering is supposedly acceptable as entertainment, what sort of violence and abuse is actually off limits?

The live quarry hunters and shooters like to see themselves as reasonable people called upon to deal with problem animals in a way that it just so happens gives them pleasure. The truth is that the rest of society sees them as ritual and serial animal abusers and experiences them as all too often being violent and abusive to members of the public.

If a vigilante gang in any town decided to hunt in the parks with packs of attack dogs and kill all the pet dogs not on leads, because un-scooped poop was perceived to be a problem, and the gang enjoyed their pet dog control work, there would be complete uproar. Yet in the countryside we are supposed to allow gangs of wildlife vigilantes with attack dogs to roam far and free persecuting the nation’s wildlife for their own sport and recreation.

I have no doubt that the urban gang leader with a dog pack would soon be called the master and the man in charge of the pack would be called the huntsman. It would fast become a sport for so called bloods. No doubt others with whips and horns would don the appropriate jackets and trainers for the gang, expensive off road bikes would be bought and there would soon be a strict code of behaviour. Each gang would have its own hunting turf and woe betide anyone who sought to hunt there without their permission. Anyone seeking to monitor the activities of such a hunt would themselves become a target and violence would ensue.

The Hunting Act isn’t about toffs on horseback, it is all about gangs of thugs with attack dogs. Be they packs of Pit Bulls, Rottweilers or of supposedly well bred hounds, Greyhounds or even Jack Russell terriers, taught to fight foxes and badgers. The hunters and coursers who turn their dogs onto animals for their own sport are no different to the urban gangs described above. Cruelty is cruelty whether you drive a 4×4 to the meet or ride a BMX. Setting a dog or worse still a pack of dogs onto another animal for sport is cruel, whether it takes place in a public park in town or on a private estate in the countryside.

Allowing a repeal of the Hunting Act would open the door to thugs with packs of dogs, be they in the town or the countryside. Please do all that you can to help us Keep Cruelty History.

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Government ‘courageous’ for banning cages for game birds

The League has welcomed the government’s decision to effectively ban the use of raised cages for the rearing of game birds, describing the move as ‘courageous’.

The League Against Cruel Sports said that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had come up against strong opposition to the move, which outlaws the use of cages for the rearing of pheasants and partridges. Defra also considered the use of ‘enriched’ cages where birds are provided with more space.

Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive of the League, said:

“We knew all along that the government and leading people in the shooting industry were keen on a ban on these awful cages used for intensive gamebird rearing, but they came up against a determined group in the multi-million pound shooting industry who appeared to care more about the money to be made from intensive rearing methods than animal welfare.

“These gamebirds were being bred and reared to be used as live targets so that people can shoot at them for sport. The public are now voting with their wallets and purses on free range chicken, but unfortunately some were still hoodwinked into thinking that game meat was all free range, extensive, wild, and natural when the truth was, that most pheasants and partridges started out life in intensive conditions much like battery reared chickens. The proposed changes will at least reduce the intensity and almost industrial nature of gamebird rearing and the suffering that results from keeping birds better suited to the wild, in captivity,” Mr Batchelor said.

A number of other organisations, including the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC) and the RSPCA, also backed an outright ban.

Defra have announced that all cages must be put out of use by 1st October.

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Image of the Day – 111

There’s a shooting estate adjacent to the League’s main sanctuary near Dulverton in Somerset. As a result, our staff there often find birds on the sanctuary. Here’s a beautiful male pheasant snapped by our Head of Operations, Paul Tillsley.

Most people look at pheasants and think they are wild, natural and free range. The reality is quite different, and later today DEFRA will publish new guidelines on the rearing of game birds. We expect, and hope, that they will ban the cruel and inhumane cages once and for all. Watch this space.

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Scottish Government’s snare ‘whitewash’ is now law

The Snares (Scotland) Order 2010 has been branded a complete whitewash by a leading animal welfare charity. On the day the new statutory instrument comes into force regulating the use of animal snares the League Against Cruel Sports has criticised the Scottish Government for failing to take the necessary steps to end animal suffering caused by snares.

The Order introduces a number of measures to regulate the use of snaring including the use of stops to prevent the noose tightening beyond a certain circumference and the use of anchors to stop the snare being dragged from its original location by the captured animal.

The League campaigns for the use of all snares to be made illegal on the grounds they are cruel, indiscriminate and cause unnecessary suffering. The charity argues that due to the crude nature of a snare no amount of regulation will eradicate the suffering caused to animals by these traps.

The regulations, which come into force today (Thursday), were announced in Parliament in February 2008 following a public consultation which generated a 2:1 majority in favour of a ban. The Scottish Government’s decision went against overwhelming public, professional and political support to make the use of snaring illegal in Scotland.

League spokeswoman Louise Robertson said: “These regulations are a complete whitewash and will go no way towards reducing the huge level of suffering caused by such a basic wire trap. The Government based its decision purely on the financial gain to be made from commercial shooting and with complete lack of regard for animal welfare. As long as snares are legal animals will continue to suffer horrific injuries and slow, agonising deaths.”

Read more about the League’s snaring campaign in Scotland.

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Image of the Day – 110

Here’s a dead fox that looks like it’s been in a snare rather longer than 24 hours, demonstrating why the new Scottish regulations – which come into force today – are a whitewash.

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