BASC has criticised a League Against Cruel Sports film that claims to show partridges being kept in potentially illegal conditions at game farms as emotive propaganda and dangerous to the birds involved. It appears that the League, despite claiming to have evidence of potential animal welfare offences, have not bothered to contact the police.
The written commentary which accompanies the unverified footage contains errors which suggest that that the League does not understand game farming or game shooting. For example, the film implies all partridges are kept in raised laying units – but this is only true for the laying stock. In addition, the film says that all ex-layers are shot – in fact, more than half will not be shot and, when released, will join the wild stock.
Game farming in the UK is governed by a statutory code of practice published by Defra in 2010. Evidence the code has been breached can be used to support a prosecution for cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. If the League believed that cruelty was taking place, they should have taken their evidence to the police. Their failure to do so suggests the conditions complied with the Code, or the League were more bothered about securing publicity than animal welfare. Failure to report knowledge of a crime can itself be an offence.
BASC supports the code of practice and has examined the film, which because of its editing and filming angles cannot be taken as evidence of poor conditions.
Tim Russell, BASC director of conservation, said: “The Code of Practice is there to help game farmers and is supported by the Game Farmers Association. Anybody keeping livestock knows that their animals need to be kept in good condition if they are to perform well. Game farmers are no exception. They want their birds in top condition to obtain the best results. For a charity claiming to promote animal welfare to fail to report to the police what they believed to be evidence of cruelty, is truly shocking and shows that the League is merely an anti-shooting front and nothing to do with animal welfare.”
Ian Grindy, chairman of BASC’s game-shooting and game-keeping committee, and a former game keeper said: “The behaviour of the birds in the film is particularly worrying. They are distressed and are being made to panic by those doing the filming. Birds in laying cages are used to the people who feed and water them on a regular basis, and they don’t go berserk like this when approached properly. I am surprised that some of these birds did not break their necks during the course of filming. Illegal filming can be a real danger to the birds themselves and can often cause stress and panic attacks in the birds the film makers are supposedly trying to protect.”