Hundreds of shot pheasants dumped in sacks in North York Moors National Park

An article in yesterday’s Gazette & Herald reports how hundreds of shot pheasants have been dumped in sacks near Helmsley, in the North York Moors National Park.

The article (here) says a local rambler first found four sacks of dead gamebirds in Hawnby Road on 26 November 2017. The rambler returned to the site last week and reportedly found several hundred more dead pheasants piled up in heaps.

According to a quote attributed to Liam Stokes of the Countryside Alliance, “It is worth pointing out that these birds all appear to have been breasted – the breast meat has been removed. Of course the rest of the carcass should have been disposed of appropriately, but it does appear that the meat from these birds has in fact entered the food chain“.

Amazing how Liam can see that “all these birds appear to have been breasted”. Can he see inside the sacks? Has he examined every one of these hundreds of dumped birds? Or is he in fact just trying to exert some serious damage limitation because he knows how politically damaging these images are for the game shooting industry?

It’s not the first time shot gamebirds have been dumped as waste in the countryside – as we’ve seen before hereherehere. Indeed, it’s a growing problem for the game shooting industry, as we blogged about just last month (see here).

It’s bad enough that an estimated 50 million non-native pheasants and red-legged partridge are released, unregulated, in to the countryside every year (yes, that’s 50 million EVERY YEAR) for so-called sport shooting, including inside our national parks, but then to just dump them as a waste product is a PR disaster for an industry under increasing scrutiny for its environmentally damaging activities.

Have a read of this article written by Charles Nodder of the National Gamekeepers Organisation who revealed in July that even though many shoots are struggling to get their shot birds in to the food chain, they are still releasing (and shooting) more and more and more every year.

Responsible? No.

Sustainable? No.

In dire need of regulation? Yes.

UPDATE 31 December 2017: More shot pheasants dumped in North York Moors National Park (here)

63 thoughts on “Hundreds of shot pheasants dumped in sacks in North York Moors National Park”

  1. Well that just shows how out of control these shoots are. Raptors persecuted for absolutely no reason as Game birds now dumped having been needlessly slaughtered. Ridiculous and immoral.

    1. I wonder if a point is being made by the nasty brigade? Why dump them in a national park when they control most of the remote areas anyway? No surprise it’s Yorkshire again. What a hell hole.

  2. 50 million. That’s nearly one bird for every member of the UK population. How many of us shoot pheasant/partridge? No wonder the A64 East is littered with pheasant roadkill if there’s that many wandering the area. Who in the ‘industry’ is doing the maths here? Are they seriously over-releasing to ensure a ‘good shoot’ or is there just no thought going into the figures? And if they are over-releasing, is it to compensate for the fact that many shooters are inexpert and need lots of targets? As a meat eater, I can’t condemn hunting for food. I can however condemn shooting as target practice, with a valuable asset being thrown aside as waste. It all makes little sense to me.

  3. If they have been ‘breasted’ as the guy claims, then this is catering waste, £150/tonne removal waste cost. He is clearly stating that the shoot has fly tipped waste to avoid being charged to dispose of it correctly. Surely this could lead to prosecution the bags they are dumped in must have batch numbers on them and can be traced to the outlet that sold them.

    1. I agree that this is a serious case of fly-tipping and, as such, an offence under S. 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and potentially punishable with a custodial sentence. It may also be an offence under the Animal By-Products (Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2011. I hope that the Environment Agency has been informed and is investigating.

          1. Yes it is waste. The EPA mentioned above covers fly tipping but the Animal By Product Regulations cover the processing, storage, disposal etc of animal by products which for whatever reason are not going to be used for human consumption. (Eg diseased animals, parts of animals not easily consumed eg trotters, food aesthetically unattractive, food contaminated during processing etc). The Animal By Products Regulations specifically cover game birds and their disposal. Of course, the game industry managed to extract specific exemptions for their industry as this regulation went through the EU so the law relating to game birds is not straight forward but it definitely covers the disposal of game birds.

      1. Businesses also have a duty of care under S34(1) Environmental Protection Act 1990. “… It shall be the duty of any person who … produces, carries, keeps … or disposed of controlled waste … to take all such measures applicable to him in that capacity as are reasonable in the circumstances – (a) to prevent any contravention by any other person of section 33 … (b) to prevent the escape of the waste from his control or that of any other person and (c) on the transfer of waste to secure (i) that the transfer is only to an authorised person or to a person for authorised transport purposes; and (ii) that there is transferred such a written description of the waste as will enable other persons to avoid contravention of that section … And to comply with the duty under this subsection as respects the escape of waste.”

        In other words, this isn’t simply a matter of investigating some errant employee but also a matter for the owner / manager of the estate, the head game keeper and the admin staff. Clearly there will be no paperwork ( waste transfer notes which should be kept for 2 years). But, also, what are the company’s policies on disposal of the bodies of shot game birds? Which registered waste disposal companies do they use?

      2. Smacks of more than fly-tipping. “Several hundred more dead pheasants piled up in heaps” – did the anonymous rambler check the surrounding ground for snares or traps? This sounds suspiciously like a stink pit.

        1. I see what you mean. Unfortunately from just two photos it’s not clear but I can’t see the classic surrounding barrier of branches with gaps for the snares. Neither can I see animal tracks leading to the bags/bodies. In addition, the bags appear to be close to a road (what with the car in the background). In my experience stink pits tend to be placed in more inaccessible places where the public are less likely to come across them and (in their world) interfere with the snares or release any caught animals. I may be wrong though.

          1. Even if it is only fly-tipping (which is bad in its own way), it’s perhaps surprising that the offender didn’t dump the corpses in a more inaccessible place. As you say, hard to judge from the photographs, but I was just wondering if the finder had thought to search the surroundings for evidence. It’s a bit surprising (or not?) that the newspaper article didn’t mention whether the police had been informed. Presumably they would have searched for evidence, although I don’t imagine the list of obvious suspects would be very long!

            1. I certainly hope the police have been informed! Those bags might have incriminating evidence in them like an invoice accidentally left in there or a note with handwriting on it. And, if the police REALLY took wildlife crime seriously then I see no reason why forensic officers couldn’t try to get fingerprints off the bags or footprint casts. There might be the odd footprint in the soil, or, if they’ve come in an off road vehicle, they might have left tyre track marks leading to the drop off point. Hundreds of birds dumped and in various states of decay suggests multiple visits to the site. No one is going to wait for birds to become putrid before dumping them somewhere else. They’ve been dumped bit by bit. – shoot after shoot maybe? This appears to be a regular dumping ground. The rambler had been before and found all this on his return visit so trampled ground and footprints or partial footprints seem a possibility. The list of suspects, as you say, can’t be too big! Businesses are supposed to keep records of waste, type, amount, disposal company etc. They presumably also keep records of shot birds. Meat has to have a traceability record (thanks to BSE) so they should be able to track who has bought the saleable bodies and how much waste has been correctly disposed of and then roughly work out any differences. I don’t expect all that but it is at least time to ask a few questions!

              1. If the person who reported these birds is reading this post, I’ve covered more legislation re traceability for the human food in my comment for the post for 1 January about the claim that grouse cannot be traced from the slaughterhouse. Similar traceability requirements apply to food not intended for human consumption for whatever reason eg it’s diseased, contaminated, intended as per good, is aesthetically unmarketable etc. Those requirements are in the Animal by Products regulations.

    2. The reference to the bodies being ‘breasted’ is interesting as this admission (if true) opens up quite a lot of potential food safety and hygiene regulations to scrutiny.

      Note 13 of the Animal By Product Regulations states that “In view of the potential risks for the food chain, animal by-products from killed wild game should only be subject to this Regulation in so far as food hygiene legislation applies to the placing on the market of such game and involves operations carried out by game-handling establishments.”

      Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 (which implemented the ABP Regulations) states:
      1.18. ‘Game-handling establishment’ means any establishment in which game and game meat obtained after hunting are prepared for placing on the market.’

      If the shoot is handling the meat in the way claimed then it is a game handling establishment and it needs to be registered with Defra (iirc) and is publicly accessible. If it’s not registered then that is a serious matter. Game handling establishments have to comply with quite a lot of hygiene and food handling and waste monitoring rules. The regulations relating to game meat are complicated but the FSA brought out a guide The Wild Game Guide which sets out all the various regulations.

      Not only is this fly tipping, but if the bodies have been ‘breasted’ without full compliance with food safety regulations and by a registered establishment, then it potentially breaches food and hygiene regulations as well – so should also be reported to the Food Standards Agency as well!

    3. Maybe someone has better equipment than me but the bags look like bags for bird feed – something a game shooting estate might have to hand.

  4. We are so often told that shooting interests are the guardians of nature and that it is through their stewardship that the woods are filled with other wildlife. This is of course nonsense and this incident in fact illustrates a deep contempt for the environment.

  5. It’s encouraging to hear people being outraged by news like this, but frustrating to have inside knowledge that far worse is going on associated with game shooting. We have difficulty disseminating the true facts, because of difficulties in providing full empirical proof, and fear of the libel laws. However I feel reasonably confident that more of the truth will come out sooner or later, and the shocking behaviour of game shooting become more widely understood. Once the public becomes more aware that the criminality extends beyond shooting or trapping “a few rare birds”, the reaction could equal or even exceed the current opposition to fox hunting and the badger cull. A few investigative reporters working on it could reveal untold hypocrisy, cruelty and criminality like few imagine to be happening. Our wildlife is under even greater threat than we like to admit. Hopefully more politicians will start to see the light before it’s too late. Happy New Year, RPUK!

  6. That’s about 3 miles from the most intensive pheasant farm I’ve ever been ‘priviliged’ to visit. One of the release pens was over 1km long and extended across an entire valley. Traps and snares (all legal that I saw) everywhere and literally tens of thousands of birds and none showing any fear of humans……if I’d had a gun I’m not sure how sporting it would have been to shoot birds wandering along in front of me. No wonder there’s too many to fully ‘harvest’.
    I think Michael’s suggestion about food waste fly-tipping is actully the best chance of getting a conviction against anyone involved in the ‘industry’ anywhere in North Yorkshire. Although it was obviously the work of a junior keeper acting without the awareness of their bosses (again), so they’ll probably get a caution (again).

  7. So much for the pheasant casseroles and curries we were le[a]d to believe were being provided to the homeless and foodbanks, spin bowling been run out?

  8. Even if breasted, and they came out with the same crap when Terry Pickford publicized a stink pit chock full of pheasants in the Forest of Bowland, that means one hell of a lot of meat still wasted. Given that these birds will have been raised on grain (the product of intensive agriculture that’s threatening wildlife) and possibly soymeal – probably from south america and thereby contributing to loss of tropical forest this is as disgustingly wasteful as dead chickens and turkeys being dumped. This whole issue should actually come under the remit of the Govt’s ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ campaign.

  9. This disgusts me on so many levels. I’m of a generation whose parents survived war-time rationing and they would have been aghast, seeing this as food waste. That there is no market for these birds as food shows that they are just being used as live targets not shot for the pot. This in turn indicates that the countryside is being overrun with these alien species to the detriment of our native wildlife.

  10. The market for buying game has now gone completely, theres no demand at all, game dealers will take them ,but the shoot or whoever takes the game in , has to pay 25p per bird for the dealer . This is a ridiculous situation. Its just a matter of time before more shoots dispose of their birds to avoid the 25p charge. Im told theres now about 70 million birds a year being put out. The oven ready pheasants are still about £4 each in our butchers. Im still eating road kill, at least theyre lead free.

    1. Booths supermarkets in the north of England sell game from Furness Game Ltd – game casserole, partridge etc . It’s always being remaindered – wonder why (sarcasm)? No warning labels on products though.

  11. Well that should see the majority of the local fox population through the winter, put extra pressure on all the other ground nesting birds in spring and cause adequate justification for fox control in the area for the next year.

  12. Such a waste, a sad, sad waste by the ignorant for the ignorant.

    I would love to see an end to subsidies for shooting estates plus a complete ban on lead shot. At approx 50 million birds per annum and very few being processed for human consumption (refer to lead shot), what is the point to all this and what cost to the environment, public purse (subsidies), etc?

    And yes, what happened to the magnanimous roasts and curries for the homeless? How many millions of people have been fed from the 50 million hand reared birds?

    1. That magnanimity was an empty affair anyway, purely a PR exercise to exhibit a superficial philanthropy. The nasty brigade don’t give a toss about homeless people; unless they can be used (like everything else) to detract from the havoc they are wreaking in our uplands.

  13. More and more damned lies, remember the claim from some Flunky gamekeeper on a “Pace” production that all the mountain hares go into the food chain despite evidence of thousands of them being dumped . They are beyond reproach, a disgusting ,degenerate bunch of lying criminals, they make Trump look like an honest broker.

    1. How does the CA think it can fool everyone by putting out statements such as that attributed to Liam Stokes that ‘these birds all appear to have been breasted’? On what evidence has this statement been based? There are further points:
      – there is no indication that any of the bags shown have been scavenged. I would have expected foxes to have been attracted by the smell. Maybe there are none. I wonder why.
      – dumping large numbers of shot birds like this causes an unnatural concentration of lead which could be detrimental to scavenging species.
      – yet more plastic dumped in the countryside.
      – another ‘own goal’ by the caring shooting fraternity.

  14. You townies simply don’t understand the ways of the countryside.
    Coming into the countryside leaving gates open and litter lying around.

    Irresponsible, wasteful, disgusting and hypocritical.

      1. I suspect that Macgee was referring to the ‘towny’ shooters, Phil, leaving gates open and litter lying around. That’s certainly my experience! The “irresponsible, wasteful, disgusting and hypocritical” fits them too.

      1. In bloodsports-speak, anyone who opposes their vile hobby is automatically designated “a townie” – the worst insult they can muster in their small minds. Unlike birdwatchers who focus on twitching, or visiting reserves and hot spots, my friends and I have birdwatched throughout our lives in the wider countryside. During those 50-odd years we became very familiar with the striking level of ignorance, to do with anything ecological, shown by most shooters, farmers and gamekeepers. Yet they regard themselves as “true country folk” and “guardians of the countryside.” If we found one who was understanding of nature, it was a red letter day! They do exist, but few and far between.

  15. Lets not forget that the 45 million plus pheasants released into the UK annually also present a clear risk to public health. They are very effective vectors of the borrelia type bacteria which transmit Lymes Disease. They attract ticks at all stages of their development …. egg, larval, nymph and adult … as they are ground foragers. Once infected by the bacteria they can proceed to be crucial in infecting any other animals or birds that the tick attaches itself too during the next stage of their life cycle. Some claim that without the release of these birds in such numbers Lymes Disease would remain a relatively minor problem in our country. Thus the introduction of these birds for the benefit of those who pursue a minority sport becomes a health hazard for all of our rural communities .. and in town and city parks too. They are not even a food resources with the various moorland groups now giving them away to food banks disregarding the fact that they are not in demand as as food due to the high lead content which tends to be way above the safe limit. They also compete with indigenous birds and animals for increasing scarce food resources. It’s the next big scandal that will hit the headlines.

    1. The foodbanks l help can’t accept fresh food, as neither they nor more disturbingly their clients have adequate access to refrigeration or any more than basic cooking facilities. Any estate suggesting they donate is most probably lying.

    2. If you’re going to write about the infection which has damaged me and many others, please get the name right. It’s Lyme Disease.

      Thank you.

  16. Just goes to show, these “sportsmen” have an intense blood lust.
    I am certain that these types would like to hunt humankind, starting with the elderly.
    A really disgusting pastime.
    Can one imagine the furore resulting, should a normal person release 50 million alien wildlife into our countryside, causing great damage to our indigenous wildlife.

  17. What makes this even worse is that these days one cannot go into the countryside just about anywhere on any day but Sunday and not hear the sound of these blood lust junkies, re-enacting the battle of the Somme ( actually shooting pheasants) but it sounds like war. Thirty or even twenty years ago if you chose reasonably you never heard this bloody noise pollution, now it seems almost unavoidable.

  18. I can’t find the article you (RPUK) refer to by Charles Nodder but this man is not your average game keeper. Mr Nodder is ranked as the 48th most important countryside person in the UK by Country Life!

    I have read one article by Mr Nodder about how poaching is one of the six wildlife crime priorities and is much more prevalent than raptor persecution or badger baiting! Hmm I wonder why that is? Could it have anything to do with the types of crimes game keepers and shooting estates report to the police!

    Anyway, here’s the article he wrote

      1. Thanks RPUK. What a great read!

        It makes me wonder if Brexit could really help make shooting uneconomic by closing a big market. Wonderful!

    1. I wonder where RPUK features in Country Life’s list of important countryside people! Or any of the other conservation candidates that could be nominated for the honour. Indeed, it would be interesting to know their definition of ‘a countryside person.’

  19. On the RSPB reserve at Dovestone, Oldham, Greater Manchester. Grain is being put out to feed Pheasants. Lots of them round Yeoman Hey Reservoir.

    1. Can anyone verify whether this is actually happening? If it is, what on earth is the RSPB thinking? Are they under pressure as a tenant of a landowner who shoots? Just doesn’t ring true.

  20. yesterday I went to pick up friends dog and the Hunt vehicles and field were beginning to to to the Meet. My heart sank. then when I parked and walked the dogs it was like a war zone. Shooting echoed across the valley and I just felt sick. I am utterly sick , at the age of 72, of mankind, of tory party and their support and love of Fox Hunting, generally. seems thats about all I see and hear in the so called beautiful countryside. the slaughter , via snares, via poisons, via guns, of all of our widllife and of course there’s money to be made out of the animals too.

    1. Marta Falco describes a scenario with which I am all too familiar, and heartily fed up with. Perhaps if more birdwatchers accessed the wider countryside more often, instead of just visiting reserves, birding hot spots and attending mass ‘twitches’, they might get a better idea of the scale of the problem. Or just go into any popular newsagents and count the number of hunting and shooting magazines on the shelves compared to those which foster a more compassionate and sympathetic interest in wildlife. A considerable proportion of those who love to shoot, away from grouse moors, are killing unknown but probably significant numbers of the commoner raptors, like Buzzards and Sparrowhawks, even Kestrels and Barn Owls. This almost certainly happens on a scale which generally goes unreported, due mainly to being undetected. Red Kites are particularly vulnerable because those which frequent feeding sites become too familiar and confiding with humans. Research on Rooks’ “flushing range” has demonstrated that they will take flight at much greater distances if the human is carrying a rifle or shotgun, so hopefully the kites will quickly learn to adopt similar caution.

  21. As a chef, I was totally unaware of this wicked practice. Shooting a pheasant and eating it I have no problem with it, but shooting just for the lust of killing needs much tighter regulation with the longterm aim being to stop it. Dumping of shot game birds should traced back to the organising shoot and fined heavily and have their licences revoked. As others have said this is just another type of flytipping and a criminal waste of food.

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