Pheasant shoots slashed across UK after bird flu import ban | Rural Affairs

Pheasant shoots across the UK are closed or drastically reduced this year due to bird import bans following an outbreak of bird flu.

A large number of game birds slaughtered in the country are imported from factory farms in Europe. Experts have said the practice should stop or be reduced as it risks spreading disease and has troubling implications for native nature and biodiversity.

Just under 50 million pheasants are typically released each year into mainland farms. A recent study has suggested that at their peak in August each year, non-native common pheasants and red partridges make up around half of all wild bird biomass in Britain. The annual filming season begins on October 1.

Jeff Knott, Director of Central and East England at the RSPB, said: “The most important thing from our perspective is that the bird flu situation highlights the risks of importing and releasing millions of birds in the UK countryside with very little supervision. It’s a very, very unregulated industry and it’s something that needs to be looked at very closely. »

He called for more regulations for shootings. “There are inherent risks in bringing so many birds and releasing them into the countryside. Consider greater industry regulation to ensure we are not endangering native wildlife. Estates do not have to declare how much they bring in, release, how much is slaughtered.

Mark Avery, who co-leads nature campaign group Wild Justice, said: ‘This is a wake-up call for the shooting. Importing tens of millions of non-native pheasants is hardly traditional or sustainable. The environment will benefit – all these game birds harm our native species. Pheasants gobble up snakes and lizards and damage vegetation. Fewer game birds are respite for native wildlife.

Hunting estates are putting in place measures, including increased on-site game bird farming, to make the sector more resilient to import bans.

Glynn Evans, game and hunting dog manager at the British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC), said: “For a number of reasons such as climate, some parts of France are ideal locations for game farming and the production of pheasant and partridge. eggs. However, an outbreak of bird flu in key game farming regions at a critical time for game production has resulted in movement restrictions. The resulting impact on game shooting in the UK this year will be nothing short of significant.

“This level of disruption will vary between different shoots. For example, those who hatch and raise their own birds in-house will largely be unaffected, while others may proceed with scaled-down plans, and we’ve heard of shoots making the difficult decision not to proceed this year. .

He said the reduction in shootings would hit the rural economy, including hotels, pubs and restaurants near shooting ranges.

“This is not the first challenge we have faced and it will not be the last. With bird flu becoming more prevalent, shoots will look at their supply chains and how to secure them for the future,” Evans added.

This year’s bird flu outbreak was the longest and largest ever in the UK and many parts of Europe. The disease not only infects farmed birds, but it is also sweeping through vulnerable populations of endangered birds, which worries conservationists.

The disease, which is highly contagious in birds, started in commercial goose farms in Asia in 1996, spreading to poultry farms and then to wild birds.

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