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201030 | Legal challenge to pheasant shooting could change the face of the Cornish countryside

Legal challenge to pheasant shooting could change the face of the Cornish countryside

Posted By Rashleigh MacFarlane on 30th October 2020

By Rashleigh MacFarlane

The campaign group Wild Justice is preparing for a legal challenge which could halt the release of thousands of pheasants into the Cornish countryside.

Although this year’s game shooting season is already underway, a Judicial Review is due to be heard next week which could declare the birds' breeding and release unlawful. The case has been brought against Defra and its Secretary of State – and Camborne and Redruth MP – George Eustice.

Many shooting clubs and “country sports” enthusiasts are paying close attention.

Pheasants are native to Asia, but were introduced into much of Europe by the Romans, possibly arriving in the UK with the Normans in the 11th century. By the 19th century they were almost extinct, but the realisation that they could be bred commercially as a gamebird ensured their survival.

Pheasants are now a common sight in rural Cornwall. Their impact on the countryside is the point of debate at next week’s Judicial Review. Wild Justice says there is evidence that game birds eat endangered insects and plant life, unbalancing the delicate ecology of some important sites.

The birds’ excrement adds over-rich nutrients to fragile ecosystems. Releasing millions of game birds into the wild also unnaturally boosts predators such as foxes, crows and rats, say the campaigners.

The case alleges that Defra has breached the EU’s habitats and birds directives that protect millions of acres of countryside designated as conservation areas.

Shooting enthusiasts claim that Wild Justice is simply motivated by politics.

Shooting pheasants is now big business, providing some seasonal employment for local people - and handsome profits for landowners. The industry claims it provides 350,000 jobs nationally and that it provides £2.5 billion annually in goods and services. The government has exempted shooting parties from its Covid-19 “rule of six” restrictions.

There are several organised pheasant shoots in Cornwall which every year breed thousands of chicks, releasing them aged seven weeks. From 1st October people can fire shotguns at them. Most of the young birds seldom stray more than a mile from the point of release before they die.

Camborne & Redruth MP George Eustice will next week defend a legal challenge to the annual mass-release of seven-week-old pheasants, whose impact on the Cornish countryside is in dispute

Nationally, about 47 million pheasants are bred and released each year solely to be shot. About two-thirds escape and are later killed by predators, vehicles or disease.

The 4,500-acre Caerhays Castle estate, for example, between Truro and St Austell, attracts shooting parties from around the world.

Wild Justice claims that Defra has not properly assessed the impact of releasing such large numbers of pheasants on native wildlife. The Judicial Review also applies to Red-legged Partridges.




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