Posts tagged BASC

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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Decision on game bird rearing due Friday

We heard yesterday that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – DEFRA – plan to publish their long awaited regulations on game bird rearing at the end of this week.

The League, together with a host of animal welfare charities and the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC), called on DEFRA to ban the use of cages for the rearing of game birds. Unsurprisingly, the Countryside Alliance and some shooters took issue with this and asked DEFRA to recommend the use of ‘enriched’ cages instead.

Late last year, we were told that DEFRA Ministers preferred the idea of the ban. We hope they’ve stuck to that preference.

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League exposes shocking evidence of game bird cruelty

The League Against Cruel Sports is today backing calls by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for an end to the use of cages in game bird rearing. A public consultation on the issue is closing today which offers three options; one of enriched cages with more space; the second for an outright ban; and a third to retain the status quo.

Ministers are believed to support a ban, and over 100 MPs have signed a parliamentary motion in favour of an outright ban.

To coincide with the consultation ending the League has released new footage showing shocking standards of welfare conditions on two game bird farms in the UK. The film shows row upon row of small cages with distressed birds confined inside. The footage was filmed at Pye Hall Game Farm in Suffolk and Bettws Hall Game Farm in Powys as part of a wider undercover investigation into game bird rearing. The film shows dead birds left in their cages with live birds.

The League is campaigning to reduce the suffering caused to game birds reared in cages. These birds are often sold as organic and free range despite many beginning life in worse conditions than battery hens. The League is against the shooting of live targets for sport but campaigns for improvements to animal welfare within the shooting industry such as end to the use of snaring as a method of predator control and works to educate the public about the unethical practices often used within the industry.

The League’s calls for an end to the use of cages for game bird rearing are echoed by the British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC) which also supports making such cages illegal.

Deputy Head of Campaigns and Communications for the League, Louise Robertson said: “Rearing birds in small cages and depriving them of space and freedom is simply not acceptable and the cruelty of this practice is shown all too clearly in our footage. This new evidence shows the grim reality of game bird farming and the fact the League and BASC are in agreement on this issue shows just how bad these cages really are”.

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End the suffering of game birds in cages

The League Against Cruel Sports has long campaigned for an end to the shooting for sport of live animals. We think it’s cruel and unethical to use animals as targets for sport, and we particularly object to the cruel practices involved in the rearing of game birds for shooting.


Most people think that game – such as partridge and pheasant – are ‘natural’ and ‘wild’. Because of the natural upbringing people think of them as having, many people favour game meat as they see it as less cruel and more ethical than most meat. What most people simply don’t realise is that some game birds are currently reared in battery cages so cramped that if they were used for chickens, the farmer would be prosecuted. And yet they are perfectly legal for game birds.

Thankfully, the government have proposed a ban on the intensive rearing of game birds, and we have applauded their proposal. We have asked our supporters to email the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in support of the proposal. We are also asking supporters to contact their Member of Parliament and ask them to sign Early Day Motion number 507 which also supports the ban.

We are delighted that other animal welfare organisations, including the RSPCA, have joined with us in congratulating government for taking such a strong approach on this issue. Indeed, whilst we might well disagree with the fundamental basis of their existence, we also applaud the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC) for also joining calls for a ban. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the Countryside Alliance don’t want a ban and support the cruelty inherent in the status quo.

You can help, but you need to act quickly as the DEFRA consultation closes on Monday. Click here to contact DEFRA urging them to implement the ban, and click here to contact your MP. Do let us know what response you get!

You can find out more about our shooting campaign on our website.

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Children, guns and common sense

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

Christmas is for the most part a time of goodwill and cheer. What is so sad is that some people turn it into something else altogether.

You have to wonder about the Boxing Day hunts and shoots. Why at a time of goodwill to all men do some people feel the need to go out and kill animals for fun? Worse still, the people who do these things take their spouses and children along as well.

Both shooting and hunting have predominantly male followings. Yes, there are women and children involved as well, but these activities are a primarily male pursuit. So what is it in the male psyche that attracts them to killing for sport?

The people involved in hunting and shooting for sport are for the most part over the age of forty. Some are wealthy, many are not. Some are from public school backgrounds, many are not. Some sound incredibly posh, most do not. Yet these people are a distinct group insofar as they go out and play together. So what is it that binds them together? What is it that they have in common? That is the question that should be asked.

The hunters and shooters like to play the class card. They claim that those who oppose them are engaged in some sort of class war, yet we know that social class does not define this group. What they share are their interests in domination, in chasing and in killing wild animals for sport.

It is a good idea to look first at dominance as a reason why some people hunt and shoot. The power of life and death over other beings is a demonstration of dominance. The bull fight where the matador and his team dominate and then kill a bull in the ring is not so different from the traditional organised stag hunt, where the huntsman and his team hunt the stag till it can no longer run and stands at bay. Both activities attract a crowd of followers, people who presumably want to see this contest between man and beast.

The fox hunt is also no different in that it is another contest between man and beast. The packs of dogs are set onto the trail of the fox, for sport. The followers are the spectators, the huntsman and the other hunt servants involved are the dominators who seek to show their prowess at killing.

When it comes to shooting, it is a case of anyone with a gun can play dominator or dominatrix. In that sense shooting is a very inclusive blood sport, where anyone can kill for fun.

So what is this fascination with dominance and death really all about? It isn’t just like the inevitable fascination or curiosity that people have for the scene of an accident. It is much more and much darker than that. The hunters and the shooters are people who want to participate in the chase and the kill. These are not for the most part mere spectators, at the scene. They are in many cases people who want to play a part, however small in the chase and the kill.

One has to ask what it is about the dominance of chasing and killing that these people find so attractive. What sort of personality needs the ego boost of being able to dominate and kill? What personality type needs the power kick that comes from chasing an animal around the countryside before it is killed?

The hunters and shooters are remarkably reluctant to talk about their motives. The hunting world is full of ritual and symbols; whips and horns, masters and servants, and terrier men. There is a clear hierarchy where the master rules and the men do the dirty work. The shooting world is less obviously divided other than between the people with the guns and the rest, but hierarchies remain.

I find it fascinating that shooting is predominantly the sport of middle and older aged men. It is as if, having reached a certain age where physical dominance is no longer their preserve, shooting provides the middle aged male with a power extension, a further chance to prove their dominance to their peers and to anyone else who watches and feigns interest.

When I have accused the shooting lobby in the past of being a primarily male preserve, they have been quick to tell me that they are bringing on the women and children. Young children are being taught to chase and to kill for sport. ‘Pity the poor children’, would be most peoples response to that.

I was particularly shocked this week by the story about a ten year-old girl who had been taught to shoot by her father. Now aged twelve, she said that she was doing it for the farmers who needed these animals to be controlled. A child with a gun, before the age of criminal responsibility, is a reality that most parents would find unacceptable.

The child in question was taught to use a shotgun, first on targets and then on live ‘vermin’. Now she uses her gun on pheasants. The ghastly reality of this is that here is a child being taught to kill and earning praise for doing so.

In the world of hunting and shooting initiating the children to chasing and killing for sport must seem like a validation of the adult’s pursuits. What such exposure to killing does to children is not well researched, but history tells us that some must be adversely affected by it. The concern is that if you look to America where there are far more guns, there are clear examples of what can happen when children have access to firearms. It may not happen often, and it may not be a huge risk here, but why take that risk at all?

There is no legal minimum age for possession of a shotgun certificate. Firearms are more restricted but can still be used by children over the age of 14. Surely we should be looking at all firearms and shotguns as being potentially lethal weapons, and treating them like cars. No one should be allowed access to a gun before they have passed a written and practical test (on non animal targets) so that we can be assured that they have the knowledge and skill to use it safely and humanely.

Bloodsports are all about dominance and killing for sport. These activities are not necessary and are therefore by self definition cruel because they cause unnecessary suffering. Those who engage in them are not of a class, they are sadly people with an unhealthy interest in dominance.

In our civilised society my Christmas wish is that no child should be licensed to use a gun to kill. It would be made an offence to teach a minor to kill for sport. I feel that no life should be so cheap that it can be snuffed out for sport and entertainment by either a child or adult.

So at this time of goodwill, let’s have a bit of common sense about our attitudes to hunting and killing for sport. We are not engaged in a class war, we are seeking to put an end to human acts of lethal dominance for sport and entertainment. This in not the Roman Empire anymore, with its festivals of death as public entertainment, this is for the most part a civilised society. It is high time we made all acts of cruelty by dominance for sport a crime.

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Rearing of pheasant and partridge

2361An east-Midlands MP, David Taylor, has laid an Early Day Motion (EDM) before Parliament calling for a ban on the rearing of birds for shooting (read the full EDM here) in a similar move to that passed by the Dutch parliament in 2002. Thus far, the EDM has attracted the support of almost 70 MPs.

As one would expect, both the Countryside Alliance and the Daily Telegraph – house journal for everyone interested in killing for fun – are furious that anyone should attempt to curb their enthusiasm for another bloodsport. In the Alliance’s weekly newsletter, their Chief Executive Simon Hart fires a broadside at those in the shooting community who claim there is no political threat to their sport. Given that this EDM was tabled in June, his fury has taken some time to develop.

Earlier this year, the League found itself in an interesting position as part of Defra’s working group on game birds. We found that we were in agreement with the British Association for Shooting & Conservation, who agreed with us that the battery cages used for rearing game birds – they are so small as to be illegal for rearing poultry – should be outlawed. The League and BASC found themselves in disagreement with the Countryside Alliance who think it acceptable for such cruelty to continue.

There are a great deal of MPs of all parties who support the shooting industry. But then, there used to be a majority who supported hunting. We are working hard to demonstrate the cruelty inherent in the shooting industry and will not stop until this cruel sport is outlawed completely. We would encourage all supporters to contact their MP and ask them to sign EDM 1684.

Incidentally, we find it bizarre that Mr Hart finds it “extremely disturbing” that 10% of the House of Commons will sign a motion against shooting, but isn’t disturbed at all that a majority of the House – and the vast majority of the public – want to see the Hunting Act retained.

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