Read the original article by Emer Scully at dailymail.co.uk here.
Some 9,000 pheasants freed by animal rights activists on Good Friday will have died from ‘sheer stress and exertion’, according to the owner of their hatchery.
Stuart Fairhead, 53, managing partner at Heath Hatcheries in Mildenhall, said he found 200 bodies within 250 metres of their pen after the pheasants were released.
The Animal Liberation Front cut fences, netting and a water pipe to release the birds into nearby woodland at controversial Heath Hatcheries, Suffolk, as part of their campaign to ‘dismantle the shooting industry farm by farm, shoot by shoot’.
Mr Fairhead told The Times: ‘From what I’ve read on the ALF site they believe they are releasing them to a better life. All they’ve done is condemn them to death.’
Nine thousand pheasants that could have been killed in a game shoot were released from Heath Hatcheries by animal rights group The Animal Liberation Front
The birds were adult breeding pheasants, about ten months old and kept in groups of 180 in pens of 30 metres square.
He said apart from a small number of birds he managed to save the rest would not survive.
Most will have died from dehydration or been eaten by foxes, badgers or raptors.
A ‘tape brail’ fitted to their wings means the birds cannot fly and devices used to stop them pecking each other means they will not be able to eat in the wild.
Mr Fairhead, who has been in the game business for 37 years, added: ‘These pheasants were eating 4.5 tonnes of manufactured feed per week. They don’t live on wheat. They won’t be able to feed themselves.’
Heath Hatcheries was investigated in 2015 following allegations their partridges were living in cramped metal boxes.
The farm, in Suffolk, was investigated in 2015 following reports that its partridges were kept in cramped metal boxes.
A spokesman for the ALF said: ‘The liberation of these birds from breeding pens, gives them their first and potentially only taste of freedom, many would have died before the end of their useful life as breeding stock.
‘Whilst a number of game farms do sell on their breeding stock to shoots, many simply kill the birds and re-stock each year.
‘When the shooting season ends on February 1, pheasants are left on estates to fend for themselves, walk round any shooting estate now and you will find that there is no provision for food or water for any of the surviving pheasants.
‘There is then a simple binary choice for people who are against pheasant shooting with regards to their view on the liberation of pheasants from game farms.
‘Would you rather 9,000 birds died prematurely having had a brief taste of freedom? or would you rather they were kept in pens until they were no longer of commercial value and their 224,000 offspring have gone on to be released and killed?’
At the time of the release an ALF spokesman said: ‘Once inside the farm we went straight to the battery cages which were inside a fenced off area.
‘We could hear partridges but we could also see an expensive sensor based security system. We had to leave these partridges as we did not have the equipment with us to disable the alarm system.
‘We surveyed the 45 breeding pens for pheasants, then removed a panel from each one of these pens, herded the pheasants out into the corridor then further on and out of the farm directly into a wooded area.
‘Each pen contained around 200 birds, making the total around 9,000.’
A spokesperson for Suffolk Constabulary said: ‘Unknown persons entered a rearing field from the A1065 side of Brandon Road in Mildenhall by cutting some fencing.
‘They have then proceeded to cut internal fencing, netting and water pipe allowing thousands of breeding stock pheasants to escape.’
Fences and netting were cut to release the birds before they were released into nearby woodland as part of the campaign to ‘dismantle the shooting industry farm by farm, shoot by shoot’.
Targeting the business overnight on Good Friday, the animal rights activists were unable to release partridges, also at the farm, due to a security system
Pheasants are used as game birds on shoots in the UK after being reared in specialist farms
In 2015, the farm was investigated over allegations that their partridges were living in cramped metal boxes.
Former environment secretary Liz Truss asked the Animal and Plant Health Agency to investigate whether Heath Hatcheries breached the Animal Welfare Act.
Animal Aid, which published footage of partridges in metal boxes, said Minister George Eustice said that a veterinary inspection was carried out in the same month.
‘It concluded that in general the welfare conditions were good and compliant with the Code of Practice.’
It also said the farm had ‘withdrawn’ enrichment following an outbreak of parasitic disease.