I have recently been contacted by some constituents about the welfare of pheasants bred for shooting.
I appreciate their concerns on this issue. The Government is committed to the highest standards of animal welfare, also the Animal Welfare Act 2006 already makes it clear that gamebirds must not be caused any unnecessary suffering.
The Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes was drawn up based on research carried out by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, advised by a working group that included animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA. Stock-keepers who fail to follow it could be found to have committed an offence. The Code specifies that these birds must:
1. have an environment appropriate to their species, age and the purpose for which they are being kept, including adequate heating, lighting, shelter, ventilation and resting areas;
2. have ready access to fresh water and an appropriate diet to maintain growth, health and vigour;
3. be provided with appropriate space and facilities to ensure the avoidance of stress and to allow the exhibition of normal behaviour patterns;
4. be provided with company of their own kind as appropriate for the species concerned; and
5. be adequately protected from pain, suffering, injury, or disease. Should any of these occur a rapid response is required, including diagnosis, remedial action and, where applicable, the correct use of medication.
The full Code can be found at the link I have included below:
These rules are enforced by the Animal and Plant Health Agency, which carries out routine welfare inspections and investigates complaints; prosecutions can be brought where necessary.
I think that it's likely that concerns about birds' welfare can be met by better enforcing the law that exists, rather than by making new law such as a ban. So at this stage, I'm not convinced of the campaign's ask, but I am grateful to those who have let me know about the idea. I hope this goes some way to addressing their concerns on the matter.