Answer from House of Lords about status of pheasants (livestock or wildlife?)

Last week I blogged about how Green peer Natalie Bennett had posed a question in the House of Lords, asking the UK Government ‘whether they regard captive-reared pheasants released into the environment as wildlife or livestock?‘ (see here).

This question stems from the Government’s ongoing contortions relating to the legal status of pheasants, a status that seemingly is able to morph from being ‘livestock’ to ‘wildlife’ and then back to ‘livestock’ at various points in the year, which provides the pheasant owner/keeper with multiple opportunities to kill native predators and avoid legal responsibility for public damage all at the same time. This flow chart from Wild Justice sums it up well:

Conservative life peer and DEFRA Minister Zac Goldsmith has now responded to Natalie Bennett’s question as follows:

A released captive-reared pheasant may be regarded as livestock if it remains significantly dependent on a keeper for their survival, for example for the provision of food, water or shelter‘.

Hmm. That’s not especially helpful when ‘significantly dependent’ hasn’t been defined, although we do know from DEFRA’s new General Licences this year that supplementary feeding of pheasants does not count in this context. Hmm, it’s all very odd.

Wild Justice has taken legal advice on this issue this week and you can expect to hear more from them in due course…. and you’ll hear it first if you subscribe to their free newsletter here.

18 thoughts on “Answer from House of Lords about status of pheasants (livestock or wildlife?)”

  1. How do you tell whether a pheasant is a captive reared bird dependant on a keeper or a wild bred bird???????????

    1. Captive when kept in the pens, but once released to flutter about, roost in trees and forage for food (including that put in feeders) they are wild.

  2. A few random thoughts to ‘provoke’ further discussion ….

    Clearly they need to be able to identify their said captive reared bird, so does that mean that they will be chipped in some way or other? If so then traffic accidents caused by released game birds will be able to claim against the shooting estate / landowner?

    Which then brings us to those reared which have become feral because estates haven’t caught them up (probably cheaper to leave them be and buy in more young birds) and now breed as wild birds, there are from personal observation too many in some areas and these are impacting upon interest features of SSSIs – how does Lord Goldsmith et. al. propose to address this issue I wonder?

    Licence fees for shoots to operate need to reflect the costs which should, in my opinion, facilitate independent monitoring of shoots and the impact they have on local wildlife. Time also for a review of the cost of shotgun licences maybe? Again they should cover all costs, and those using lead shot should be leveled at a rate that will contribute to a clean up of spilt poison into the countryside until such time lead is banned.

    It is high time that game shooting was as regulated as other high risk hobbies and that private pleasure was not in any way subsidised by public funds.

  3. There’s a couple of pheasants tap on my conservatory door for some seed every day, I’ll ask them what category they fall into!

  4. Presumably this means that if my dog disturbs or chases a pheasant in a hedgerow near a feeding station, the gamekeeper may legally shoot it? How close would it need to be?
    This is important because like many others I walk my dogs on public footpaths adjacent to woods where pheasants are released but have feeding stations.Essential information for dog owners.

  5. Seems like a normal response from government, its always the easiest approach is the best, and especially if it does not upset the killers, after all its a small revenue at stake, if the killers can’t get a licence to kill then that small licence fee would be lost.
    And as far as wildlife being killed to save the pheasant they don’t care, nor will they ever put the wildlife before revenue, it also comes down to those who have money being behind the pheasant killers, and so again they will never act against them.
    As far as I can see it the age old problem of money looks after money will never change.

  6. When you find a bin-bag of dead pheasants dumped in a lay-by are they: a) wildlife b) livestock c) ‘game’ birds or d) a disgusting waste product of a disgusting ‘industry’? Perhaps those in the shooting ‘industry’ would care to enlighten us?

  7. At the moment there are restrictions on keepers of poultry due to avian flu. All domestic /agricultural birds need to be kept in an enclosed area too prevent any contact with wild birds.

    If pheasants are being fed, and are therefore classed as livestock, does that not mean they should also be currently kept indoors?

  8. So what if the purpose of the food is not to ensure the actual survival of the pheasants but to make sure that they don’t stray away from where they are going to be driven to be shot? Taking the view from a few steps back, it beggars belief that it is still legal to raise and release tens of millions of a non-native species for the sole purpose of inflicting pain and death on them through the medium of a toxic substance and that it is legal to kill various indigenous wildlife species in order to sustain this bizarre process. I think that it’s time for a repeat of the Dragon’s Den spoof video.

  9. Am I correct in assuming that livestock also gains farm subsidies (an extra earner for the poor farmer???).

    1. Douglas theres no subsidys now for livestock, there used to be headage payments ,this was replaced with the basic farm payment many years ago. By the year 2028 all farm basic payments will have ceased, and only payments made will be for habitat improvement, which is fantastic, we can all look forward to some massive changes in the countryside, thousands of miles of hedgerows could be re planted, etcetc

      1. A friend of mine rang me up to tell me his local estate owner was on the radio talking about how shooting estates are looking forward to receiving funding for habitat management!

        1. Yes we can see that coming, any planting will usually help birdlife, even the hideous Laurels that are commonly being planted around glamping sites.

  10. Not so long ago in conversation with a gamekeeper; his description to me was. ‘ We import the birds from France as chicks as they breed them better than we can do, we then raise them as chickens and protect them as we do chickens!!!! We release them and feed them daily so to keep them on the shoot and protect them until we shoot them, and some escape!! You can substitute for Pheasant , chicken, sheep, cow or pig and for gamekeeper, farmer, shepherd, dairy man etc. The only way this mindless set of falsehoods that is propagated by the shooting industry is to get clear and agreed definitions of what is what. But you won’t; as it is in their interests to keep it hidden in the fog that surrounds he industry. The simple solution is to remove all subsidies, not some subsidies, let it stand to rise or fall as a business under a clear set of rules, but they will not. So shut it down.

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