A COUNTY councillor has called for an end to “out-of-date” game shooting with the season due to start next month.

Richard Udall, Labour rural affairs spokesman, will challenge Worcestershire County Council to confirm that no pheasant or partridge shooting is permitted on its land as well as calling on MPs to legislate a ban.

It is currently illegal to shoot the majority of ‘wild birds’, though the likes of pheasants, partridges and grouse are not defined as such by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Instead, they are covered by the Game Act and have their own open season, which begins in September and October.

“Literally hundreds of birds in Worcestershire will be killed in the name of sport,” said Cllr Udall.

“There is no need for anyone to shoot such birds, it is cruel, it’s out of date and irrelevant to the needs of country and rural life.”

The councillor, who represents St John’s on both the county and city councils, said “alternatives exist that do not harm wildlife” such as clay shooting.

“There is no need to kill a bird for sport,” he added.

He went on to say around 35 million pheasants and red-legged partridges, in an 80:40 split, both non-native species in the UK, are released on shooting estates in the country each year.

“These are not wild birds, they are factory farmed in much the same way as intensively reared chickens, yet are not protected by humane slaughter laws and many won’t even end up on someone’s plate,” said Cllr Udall.

“They are farmed and shot purely for sport, with many wounded and left to suffer.”

Having consulted the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website, the councillor said “virtually all” of the red-legged partridges released on UK shooting estates come from breeding birds “confined in barren wire-mesh cages with less space per bird than an A4 piece of paper”.

He said many die from exposure to British weather, as they are used to warmer climates, as well as disease, with less than half actually killed by shooters.

“We should not be allowing this slaughter to take place on publicly owned land,” Cllr Udall added.

Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said the group would “welcome a confirmation” that such shooting does not take place on public land, and urged landowners to “find kinder ways of using their estates”.

“Our figures show that nearly half a million pheasants and partridges were kept in Worcestershire simply to be shot for ‘sport’ ahead of the last shooting season,” he continued.

“This is not simply killing for food, this is cruelty in the name of ‘fun’ and it should have no place in the modern British countryside.”

Nigel Huddleston, MP for Mid Worcestershire, said he values the £2 billion gamebird shooting scene brings to rural communities each year but added: “The government and I are committed to strengthening our already-high and robust animal welfare standards.”

He went on to say The Animal Welfare Act 2006 currently makes it an offence to cause any “unnecessary suffering to any animal”, including gamebirds.

Mr Huddleston said the statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes already recommends that, when birds are housed or penned, the accommodation should be well constructed and managed and of sufficient size to ensure good health and welfare.

“With respect to potential law changes, I believe the Government has shown that it already takes decisive action to maintain high standards of animal welfare, and I have no doubt it will continue to do so,” he added.