Sir – In a recent letter (October 8), the director of shooting at the Countryside Alliance urged us all to feel proud of the British shooting industry. While the ethical and environmental issues around shooting are complex, there are some aspects of modern game shooting of which many readers may be unaware:

1: The vast majority of game birds (pheasants and partridges) now shot in England have been bred and reared in captivity (many are imported from abroad) and released into the countryside expressly for the purpose of being shot. Individual readers must decide whether this is something we should feel proud of.

2: The scale of modern shooting is huge – some 50 million captive-reared game birds are now released every year. Sometimes the number of birds killed during a day’s shooting is so great that ‘surplus’ birds are disposed of by burying in the ground.

3: The numbers of game birds released is very large relative to the populations of our native wild birds and is likely to have harmful effects on our wildlife.

4: Shooting results in substantial quantities of highly toxic lead being introduced into the environment which poses a further risk to wildlife. Lead levels present in meat that has been shot with lead ammunition (even after removal of visible shot) may also pose a risk to human health if eaten regularly.

5: Every year the shooting industry kills large numbers of wild mammals and birds that it feels might interfere with shooting activities.

The methods used include poisoning, shooting, trapping and the use of wire snares (which has been outlawed in other European countries).

In and around Oxfordshire there are some shooting estates that operate in a highly responsible manner by not releasing captive-reared birds and by working hard to provide seed food in ways that undoubtedly benefit wild birds. We fully support such efforts, and would like to see them applied more widely.

Dr Alan Larkman
Chairman, Oxford Ornithological Society