Its a fact shooting estates, for their sporting advantage, want their pheasant to be both! Classified as livestock when being reared in an enclosed pen, but then reclassified as ‘wild birds’ when they are released into the wild to be shot; a trick houdini would have been proud. But what does this mean? When pheasants are penned shooting estates have the right to kill specific non protected wildlife to protect their livestock, but when pheasants are released into the wild to be hunted for sport they miraculously become wild birds; how can a bird propagated and kept in captivity be classified as livestock but when released be reclassified as wild? Is this something the estates have agreed between themselves, or is this dual classification enshrined in law ? For example ‘free range’ hens, are they livestock or wild? Would it be legal for beaters to flush hens into the air to be shot for sport then sold from supermarket shelves as a wild bird?
A bird of prey secure pheasant pen, capped on top by netting to prevent access from the sky.
If livestock wander onto the road and cause an accident then farmers are fined and instructed to pay costs for any damage caused. With over 3 million pheasants killed each year on the road by vehicles so far no one has batted an eye. Oh its natural, these are wild birds or are they?
Then there is the classic case of the Goshawk which takes pheasants ‘in the wild’, and on occasion if they are not trapped or shot first, the Goshawk will kill pheasants just outside the release pen. Is the Goshawk killing a ‘wild bird’ or livestock when this predation takes place? If they are predating wild prey, including pheasants, the shooting estate has no right in law to kill them, or apply for a licence to do so..
This begs a question – via a Freedom of Information request – Was the keeper who applied to Natural England for a licence to kill 10 Buzzards and 6 Sparrowhawks making an application for a license regardless of the recent Judicial Review’s conclusions, because the pheasants outside the pens would be wild birds and not livestock.
Can the public see the photographs of the pens where the events were supposed to have taking place, in Northumberland we are informed? Were the pens covered with netting, not just around the sides but on top of each pen? If the pheasants inside each pens were not properly protected from avian predators, then no one can blame birds of prey for coming into the pens taking these unprotected pheasants. Many would argue not protecting pheasants inside the holding pens was both irresponsible and negligent.
Has a court of law ever asked the question or formed a legal conclusion, ‘is the pheasant a wild bird or livestock?’ If not, why is there this question of doubt about what after all are an introduced species? The debate will continue until someone answers the question in court with all the information needed to make the right decision. Then, at last, we may begin to see a brighter future for all our birds of prey because surely Britain will not be the only country in the world killing these magnificent birds!
Thanks to an Eagled Eyed follower the following paragraphs taken from Defra’s own guidelines included within The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968 (1968 Ch 34) has concluded pheasants are NOT livestock, see below:-
The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968 (1968 Ch 34)
- General The main purpose of Part 1 of this Act is to give effect to the Government’s decisions on the report of the Brambell Committee in 1965 on animal welfare. It is an offence to cause or allow livestock on agricultural land to suffer unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress. Ministers are empowered, subject to Parliamentary approval, to make mandatory regulations on welfare matters and to issue codes of recommendations for the welfare of livestock. They are also empowered to prohibit certain operations on animals with or without the use of anaesthetics.
- Section 1 makes it an offence to cause, or knowingly to allow, livestock to suffer unnecessary pain or unneccessary distress whilst they are on agricultural land. It would be for the courts to determine in each proceeding for an alleged offence under Section 1(1) whether in fact unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress was caused.
- The definition of livestock given in Section 8(1) of the Act applies to animals being kept for the production of food, wool, skin or fur on agricultural land. Ministers may, by order, extend this definition and this has been done in the Welfare of Livestock (Deer) Order 1980 (see section 2(b) of this summary). The definition includes cattles, horses kept for meat, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry and other species, such as rabbits, mink, fox and deer. It also applies to a horse or a dog when used in the farming of land. As a guide to the application of this definition, rabbits kept for commercial production of food or fur are livestock, but pet rabbits are not, even when kept on a farm and neither are ornamental duck, nor pheasants reared for sport.