VEGA's response to the Farm Animal Welfare Committee's consultation on the welfare of farmed gamebirds
Re: FAWC Opinion on the Welfare of Farmed Gamebirds (in GB)
We have spent many years dealing with the subject of shooting birds as a pastime, whether or not they were wild or farmed. Wild fowling, for instance, comes into the broad category, which would also include grouse shooting.
In these debates and arguments we have been involved with the RSPCA, the League Against Cruel Sports, and the RSPB (which is not on your list of consultees, which we find surprising). As a representative of VEGA I attended a refresher course for members of the British Veterinary Association at which the debate ran heavily against practices involved with farm game birds but excused vets’ participation in the system on the grounds that it would only get worse if they weren’t there. Doctors face similar dilemmas over their attendances at hangings and other judicial procedures they which to see banned.
We have compiled information on various methods of shooting for our database. Shooting came in for a bit of flak in a thoughtful film starring James Mason and John Gielgud (as a crackpot anti-bloodsports campaigner), but I cannot at the moment remember the title nor the book from which the film was derived. It was set in the years before the tolls of the killing fields of WW1.
I was wont to advise the RSPCA and LACS that their campaigns against blood sports might have started more easily and successfully with condemnation, politically asserted, against shoots before hunts with dogs. The implications of “toffs” and corporate entertainment were common.
However, shooting farmed gamebirds has to be measured against the practices entailed in slaughtering poultry reared by the million and destined for the fleshpots. Farming gamebirds was excused by some people as offering a greater free range element. Shooting of birds also entails doubts over the assurance of a “clean” kill and the use of dogs in some instances to retrieve wounded specimens. The BVA’s efforts – and they persist in tidying up the Animal Welfare Act – over docking dog’s tails entered a new dimension in the need to expose dogs to such risks. I attended a BVA meeting where no-questions-allowed. Princess Anne, their President, ticked orf the assembled worthies of the veterinary profession that dogs should be mutilated by docking in the name of a good day’s British sport. So the FAWC should join the fun over docking of dogs’ tails.
Apart from the objectionable aspect of farming and shooting game birds that the FAWC team will be able to witness for themselves, tallies of the kill and the condition of the casualties (which might include humans) would be instructive: how many were fit for the pot or biomass for combustion to yield electrical power or for landfill.
If your shooting party has any spaces for consultees to join, we’d be pleased to accept an invitation. Farmers Weekly publishes information on Gamekeeper of the Year contest. Shooting is becoming an attractive source of income for farmers diversifying in the light of CAP modulations. Corporate endorsements and the skills of the shooters would be usefully assessed, as well as data on alternatives such as clay pigeon shooting. Observations of lead contamination of land and food would be pertinent too.