Pheasants and Partridges reared to be shot – October 2015

An Animal Aid campaign calls on MPs to sign Early Day Motion 402.

I share concerns about the treatment of birds such as pheasants and partridges that are bred and reared specifically for the purpose of shooting. I believe we have a moral duty to treat the animals we share our planet with in a humane and compassionate way and I agree that animals should not suffer unnecessarily or be kept in inappropriate conditions.

The last Labour government achieved much to end the cruel and unnecessary suffering of animals. For example, it introduced the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which embedded in statute, for the first time, clear standards relating to the welfare of animals. This Act makes it a criminal offence to subject an animal to unnecessary suffering and imposes a duty of care on any person who has responsibility for an animal. The Labour government also published a Code of Practice in March 2010 that would have led to the removal of battery cages and the introduction of minimum cage sizes to protect the welfare of game birds.

It is disappointing that, during the last Parliament, the Coalition government chose not to introduce this Code but instead brought in a less stringent code that allows the use of ‘enriched’ cages to house game birds, with no minimum requirements on cage sizes. I know that animal welfare groups including Animal Aid, the League Against Cruel Sports and the RSPCA expressed concern that the Coalition government’s Code did not go far enough.

The last Labour government commissioned a study (in 2009) on whether cage-based breeding for pheasants and partridges can fully meet birds’ welfare needs. The Coalition government failed to publish its findings during the last Parliament but, as you know, the report was published in August 2015 and concluded that cage enrichment has little impact on animal welfare.

The 2015 Labour Manifesto pledged to build on the last Labour government’s strong record on animal welfare and prior to the election, my Shadow Frontbench colleagues committed to reduce animal cruelty on shooting estates and to undertake an independent review on how to ensure the humane treatment of game birds.

As a member of the Shadow Cabinet I am unable to sign Early Day Motions, however I hope the current government will listen and respond to the concerns that have been raised by organisations such as Animal Aid about the welfare of game birds reared for shooting.