A red-footed partridge: 57m partridges and partridges are commonly reared in Britain each year.

Game over for UK shooting season as bird flu and Brexit take a heavy toll

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With a little help from Brexit, the bird has managed to shoot up the flu game, which animal rights activists have been trying to achieve for decades.

Following an unprecedented outbreak of avian flu in France, gamekeepers in Britain have had dozens of pheasant and pheasant shootings closed ahead of the shooting season after leaving some birds behind.

So far this year, at least 93 gamekeepers have been made redundant and some shootings are likely to go bankrupt, according to Dominic Bolton, former president of the Game Farmers Association and now its policy advisor.

“These are 93 families who will have total housing which comes with their job and a vehicle,” he said. “So they may well be facing the loss of everything. There are going to be a huge number of shoots this year which will not go ahead.”

According to estimates by Guns on Pegs, a shooting agency, about 70% of pheasant shoots and about a third of planned pheasant shoots could be canceled this year.

This means that 57 million red-legged partridges and pheasants are reared and released every year in the UK. Grouse shooting, which marks the start of the shooting season with “Glorious Twelfth” on August 12, will not be affected because grouse is not reared and released.

A red-footed partridge: 57m partridges and partridges are commonly reared in Britain each year.

A red-footed partridge: 57m partridges and partridges are commonly reared in Britain each year. Photograph: TM O Birds/Alami

Groups such as Wild Justice have campaigned for a reduction in releases, stating that only 30% of the birds are shot and retrieved, meaning that the survivors indirectly affect protected wildlife. Huh. The RSPB says birds of prey are illegally killed to save game birds. It also objected to the use of toxic lead ammunition, which the government considers illegal.

The dramatic reduction in game birds this year will also affect beaters, catering companies and restaurants, Bolton said, adding that 75% of rural land is managed for some sort of shooting, including game, and the industry is valued at around £2.4bn.

The earliest signs of disruption came in late February when the first case of bird flu was reported in the Loire Valley. “About half of the birds we raise in this country originate from eggs laid in France,” Bolton said, estimating that about 90% of pheasants and 40% of pheasants live in the Loire Valley. “Almost all” come from producers.

Once avian flu is detected in a farm, the birds are killed and after 30 days the farmer can start trading the birds domestically – which for French farmers means within the European Union. But international exports will have to wait up to 90 days under World Organization for Animal Health guidelines adopted in UK and EU law.

The National Gamekeepers Organization (NGO) campaigned for the government to create special licenses that allowed imports before 90 days. After weeks of talks, ministers reached an agreement for a “bespoke arrangement” with the European Union, but not France.

“Even if we were still in the European Union and operating under a 30-day regime, we were still in trouble,” Bolton said, adding that French officials had falsely blamed the shooters. Had raised hopes that imports might resume on time. “If you want to start shooting from 1st October” [when the pheasant season begins]Your birds should be eight weeks old by the end of June, when they can be released into the wild.”


Forty percent come from pheasant producers. Photo: Blickwinkle/Alami

The last outbreak in France was detected on May 17 and killed 16 million farm birds, including poultry. According to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), 1,464 cases of bird flu were reported till June 22.

French farmers are devastated. Otto Tepes founded his central London restaurant, Otto, on traditional French cuisine. Canard la Presse is their signature dish, made with challah duck from Maison Burgoud Farm in the Loire.

“I haven’t been serving any ducks from the beginning,” he said. “This farm has been in business since the 1930s and they are the main farm for the three-star Michelin restaurant. Everything is gone now.”

He said that the field was completely cleared only in mid-July, but they are now trying to find new stock. Diners will have to wait until the end of September before they can eat his pressed duck again.

Bird flu has been reported in 35 European countries in 2022, and the UK has seen a nearly five-fold increase from 122 cases so far this year.

Free-range eggs were unavailable for five weeks because outbreaks meant British chickens had to be kept inside, and last month Defra established a research consortium led by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APA) , in order to find out how to stop its spread. Virus.

Earlier this month outbreaks killed thousands of seabirds in the Farne Islands, near Northumberland, and thousands more across Scotland, including gannets, gulls and puffins, leading to a ban on visitors to 23 Scottish islands.

The virus is transmitted from wild birds to captive birds, possibly through droplets and direct contact. One theory as to how the virus spreads is that birds that migrate to the Arctic during the summer transmit it to each other. Birds on migration routes are also found in Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan.

The NGO said it was too early to say how the shooting season would be affected, but its president David Pooler was happy with the way the government has acted. “We have been assured that the government is trying to take measures that can prevent such incidents from happening again in future.”

A Defra spokesman said the department had tried to balance the egg trade with the country’s “high standards of biosafety” following this year’s avian influenza outbreak. Unfortunately, due to a number of external factors, it was not possible to take measures in time for this year’s shooting season. We know there will be an impact, and we are exploring how we can reduce these pressures going forward. ,

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