dead pheasant

Shocking footage released of pheasant shooting estate in Lancashire

Shocking footage of dead and dying birds filmed on shooting estate in Lancashire.

In September 2022 investigators from the Hunt Investigation Team, in collaboration with Protect the Wild, captured undercover footage from pheasant pens at the Leighton Hall shooting estate in Carnforth, Lancashire.

Seasoned investigators were shocked at what they found. Many young pheasants were in a collapsed state and immobile. Some appeared to be taking their last breaths. Some birds which seemed to be dead were actually alive. Some of the healthier-looking pheasants looked as though they were attacking and even eating the immobilised birds. All the while these sick birds were reared in close proximity to the wild birds of the area, increasing the risk of disease transmission.


Estate’s wholesome image

The scenes were even more shocking given the wholesome image portrayed on the Estate’s website (Leighton Hall hosts weddings, outdoor education for children and adult learning) and the fact that the estate sits within the Arnside & Silverdale AONB which is described as a “unique landscape of national importance”. It is also a time of critical incidence of Avian Flu across the UK. In Aug 2022, the RSPB called for an immediate moratorium on the release of gamebirds into the UK countryside, to help limit the catastrophic spread of avian influenza. Despite being immediate neighbours to the RSPB Leighton Moss Nature Reserve, Leighton Hall have indeed released hundreds of pheasants into the immediate area, despite the unnecessary risk this involves.

Yet again the shooting industry chose to ignore this and pursue their own selfish interests.


Scale of suffering ‘extensive’

The scale of the suffering was so extensive and immediate that investigators reported the site to the RSPCA immediately. Water troughs and feeders were empty and covered in faeces/scum at the time of the visit. Mixed breeds of birds were contained in pens (eg pheasant and guinea fowl, increasing the risk of disease transmission). And footage showed dying birds gasping for breath, aching their necks, exposing skeletal and bald bodies. Unfortunately by the time officials visited the site, almost all evidence had been tidied away. It is believed that a tip-off enabled the estate’s gamekeeper to remove the evidence. 

This wasn’t a ‘bad day’ or a one off. The conditions filmed at Leighton Hall Estate are systemic of the ways in which these birds, bred to be shot, are treated across the UK. Only a few weeks ago, Keep The Ban released shocking footage captured by the Hunt Investigation Team of an estate in Derbyshire showing the conditions experienced by pheasants and red-legged partridges in rearing pens. The undercover footage from this investigation showed the poorly maintained pens leaving young birds trapped in loose netting, unable to escape. It yet again revealed the industry’s casual approach to the proper disposal of dead bodies and the risk this poses to the spread of disease. It also exposed how diseases such as ‘bulgy eye’ (infectious diseases caused by micro-organisms called mycoplasmas) are rife within the industry.

In this case, Leighton Hall Estate claims to ‘take pride in its Environmental & Sustainability projects’ and so it is disappointing to see the appalling conditions in which these birds are reared. No living being should have to suffer in the ways seen in this footage.

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Phone the estate – 01524 734474

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