Pheasant shooting on public land is to be banned in Wales, following a ruling by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), a Welsh Government Sponsored Body. NRW will not renew leases to shoot the game-birds from March 2019, nor will it support the breeding of pheasants on government-owned estates.
The decision succeeds three years of sustained campaigning by the animal rights organizations Animal Aid, and League Against Cruel Sports (LACS). Last year, Animal Aid uncovered breaches of animal welfare on NRW land, including barren cages and roughly 40 dead game birds left inside a release pen; the campaign groups also presented a 12,700 signature strong petition calling for an end to the sport. Following the decision, Bethan Collins, the Senior Public Affairs Officer (Wales) at LACS, praised: “Natural Resources Wales is to be commended in the strongest terms.”
While pro-bloodsports pressure group, the Countryside Alliance, criticised the decision, concerned about potential job losses in rural areas, the decision reflects public opinion. In April, a YouGov poll found that seventy-four percent of Welsh citizens thought shooting game birds for sport should be illegal. Similar results were found in Britain. Even the Welsh environment minister wrote to the NRW in July to say the government was against the practice.
LACS named“the considerable negative impact on wildlife and the environment” as a key influence in the historic practice losing popularity. Many native predators, including foxes, weasels, and other birds are slaughtered so that the pheasants are kept alive for hunters to kill instead. This unnatural upheaval of the ecological order decreases biodiversity, even displacing some bird species and threatening rare butterfly breeds. Additionally, the ethics behind killing birds for sport is increasingly doubted. According to the LACS, over 35 million pheasants and partridges are mass bred every year ready for hunting season. Despite claims that the birds are then eaten, significant numbers are simply dumped or incinerated.
Fiona Pereira, Campaigns Manager at Animal Aid, noted that the campaign – and now the decision – shows that “the vast majority of people strongly oppose the killing of animals for ‘sport’ and want to see an end to it.” Positive about the future, she added that “NRW can now use that land for positive activities that are kind to animals and to the environment, and, importantly, set an example for other public bodies that also want to bring about an end to the shooting of birds.”
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