Thank you to those of you who contacted me about the use of cages to rear birds for shooting.
I share your concern about the treatment of birds such as pheasants and partridges that are bred and reared specifically for shooting.
It is alarming that every year around 50 million pheasants and partridges are mass produced in the UK to be shot, with large numbers of breeding birds confined for most of their lives in so-called raised laying cages that are left outside and exposed to the elements, and to extremes of temperature. The current Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes is not legally binding, and I fear it is too often flouted.
This code was due to be reviewed in 2016 but, disappointingly, this did not take place. Nevertheless, the Government has advised that it is examining the evidence around the use of cages in farming, including their use for breeding partridges and pheasants. It says it is exploring options with all industry sectors, including the gamebird industry, to see how welfare standards can be further and sustainably enhanced.
In March 2010, the then Government published a code of practice that would have led to the removal of battery cages and the introduction of minimum cage sizes to protect the welfare of game birds. Unfortunately, the subsequent Coalition Government did not introduce this code. Instead, it brought in a less stringent code which recommends that entirely barren cages are not used but allows for the use of “enriched” cages to house game birds, with no minimum requirements on cage sizes.
More widely, I do not believe that the Government has done enough to cut wildlife crime and I support the licensing of grouse shooting. I also believe we should seek to end the “cage age” of outdated farming practices that cause animals distress and restrict natural behaviour.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this important issue. I can assure you I will continue to support calls for the highest possible standards of animal welfare.