Thank you for writing to me about the welfare of gamebirds bred for shooting.
My ministerial colleagues are committed to maintaining this country’s position as world leaders in farm animal welfare and want to improve and build upon that record, working in partnership with farmers to support healthier, higher welfare animals.
As set out in the Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare, Ministers are actively exploring options for strengthening the UK system moving forward. I am aware that they are examining the evidence around the use of cages and other management tools used for breeding pheasants and partridges.
The welfare of gamebirds is protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal. The Statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes offers additional protection and provides keepers with guidance on how to meet the welfare needs of their gamebirds as required by the 2006 Act.
It is my understanding that the code states that barren raised cages for breeding pheasants and small barren cages for breeding partridges should not be used and that any system should be appropriately enriched. The code also advises that the use of management devices, such as spectacles and bits, should not be considered as routine, as they do not allow birds fully to express their range of normal behaviours.
I am assured that the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) carry out targeted inspections on gamebird breeding and rearing units in response to intelligence received. Intelligence-led monitoring and offering advice on compliance are key components of all APHA inspections. Where welfare regulations are breached, appropriate action is always taken.
Thank you again for writing to me.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking