Thursday, 8 December 2011

pheasant shooting: where is the 'sport'?

At the weekends, the sound of shooting guns bangs and echoes about the fields. The pheasant shooting season is with us. What could be a more natural, timeless countryside activity?

I'm questioning this now.

Cordwood is on the edge of the farmland where the pheasant shooting occurs. And it isn't possible to walk around our site at the moment without disturbing groups of pheasants.

This chap gives a clue to why I'm uncomfortable with this 'sport'. He followed us on our walk, approached us without fear.

Wild birds can become confiding but this bird was never 'wild'. It was reared in pens by a gamekeeper and then, with all the other young pheasants and red legged partridges it was released to fend for itself in the fields. 'Wild' pheasants are taught to forage by their mother. They do not rely on pelleted feed and learn to slip quietly away without being seen.

But, on release, farmed pheasants (completely disorientated and unable to fend for themselves) walk under the wheels of oncoming cars or approach strangers as this hapless fellow did. They are quite literally defenceless.

They loiter by feeding points in the fields and hide in the shelter belts of sunflowers that are planted to keep them where the beaters can find them. The dogs are sent in to flush them and they rise,  in a disturbed clatter into the sky only metres from the guns to be blasted out of the sky.

Where is the 'sport' in that?

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