Pheasant farm breeding stock liberated. UPDATED
UPDATE: **Since first publishing this map the Countryside Alliance have run a campaign to take down a facebook post with a link to the google map, a simple way round this is to share the url for this webpage rather than for the map (which has now been viewed over 14,000 times) We’ve gone from a start of a couple of dozen game farms to now well over 150.
Huge thank you to the now ex industry insider for quite a long list, also thanks to the members of the public and animal rights activists who tipped us off with what they knew, also a special thank you to the researchers who spend hours sifting through websites and companies house searching for these farms.**
On April 2nd this article came out: The English shooting estates that rear 20 million pheasants a year
With two game farms having birds liberated in the last few weeks, there was clearly a need for a map to be made so that people could easily find farms in there nearby area or further afield.
The markers coloured in red have battery cages, the yellow have large breeding pens, the blue are buying chicks in and rearing them, the green markers are for companies involved in equipment supply to the game farm industry. We suggest you download the KMZ file here, then open up google earth and open it for best view, google earth will also tell you the date the sattelite image was taken.
There are a number of different types of pen/cage used by the pheasant farms.
Firstly we will start with the breeding birds, these are kept in either battery cages where one male and several females are kept together and someone then collects the eggs from the cages. The breeding birds are kept on the farm over the winter, many farms DO NOT have any breeding stock, they buy in day old chicks and rear them.
A good example of the battery cages can be seen at Bettws Hall, one of the countries largest producers of game birds, the rows of white lines are the cages:
Farms that don’t use battery cages use “breeding pens” these are often simply fence panels on the sides with a nylon net over the top as you can see from the Chilmark sattelite image:
If you then look at the liberation of the birds from chilmark you can see that the lower fence panels have been removed/flattened and the net pulled back or cut back to allow a large gap for the pheasants to fly away.
So that’s the breeding birds, their eggs, will then either be shipped direct to a farm or hatched on site and then shipped. The trade in day old chicks is international as we saw when we visited Iain Bothams shoot, he had imported the birds from France.
These day old chicks will go into rearing sheds and for the first few weeks will have heat lamps on and no access to the outside, after a while they will get access to the outside usually via a door that goes onto a pen. You can see the sattelite image of Chargot:
This video of Chargot from the ground gives you some idea:
Typically the day old chicks will start being stocked from mid-May onwards into the rearing pens, they will also typically have “bits” fitted to stop them from fully closing their mouths so that they can’t do damage to each other in their overcrowded pens, they will have no chance of survival if released at a very early age, once they can fly and are going into the pens they will have a greater chance.
From mid to late summer they will be introduced into the large release pens that you may well have seen on shooting estates, they are kept in there until a few weeks before the season, then flushed to guns where many will be shot and some will survive.
To sum up, the vast majority of game farms are only rearing chicks that they have bought in, so many of the markers on this map will currently have no stock, If you zoom in, the type of pens should tell you wether or not they are breeding. BUT many farms move their pens around each year to avoid disease, so it is possible the sattelite photos were taken when the pens were in another location or some were no longer erected for that time of year, the only way to know for sure is to go to the farm and have a look round, viewing from a distance using binoculars or a drone might well be useful.
This Farmers Weekly article is well worth a read to understand how the industry operates.
If you’d like to read more about the recent liberations, Unoffensive Animal have written this piece.
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