Animal Aid has long calling for a ban on what it believes are "cruel cages used to confine breeding pheasants and partridges". The group has stated that pheasant units "hold one male and up to ten females for the whole of their productive lives" and that "partridges are kept in breeding pairs in bleak metal cages".
Animals should not suffer unnecessarily or be kept in inappropriate conditions.
In addition to the Animal Welfare Act 2006, in March 2010 the then Labour Government published a Code of Practice that would have led to the removal of battery cages and the introduction of minimum cage sizes to protect the welfare of game birds.
It is disappointing that the Coalition Government chose not to introduce this code but instead brought in a less stringent code that allows the use of "enriched" cages to house game birds, with no minimum requirements on cage sizes.
In 2009, a study was commissioned on whether cage-based breeding for pheasants and partridges can fully meet birds' welfare needs. The report was finally released in August 2015 and, as you know, concluded that cage enrichment has little impact on animal welfare.
During the last Parliament, the Government committed to review the statutory Code of Practice for the welfare of game birds reared for sporting purposes. Unfortunately, however, the current Government has indicated that this review has been dropped and says that it is instead working with industry to identify and disseminate best practice and ensure effective enforcement of the existing code.
I have long supported action to reduce animal cruelty on shooting estates and at the 2017 general election I stood on a manifesto which committed to lead the world with high animal welfare standards, and to promote cruelty-free animal husbandry.
The Opposition is currently consulting on a new Animal Welfare Plan and one of the proposals under consideration is to ban the intensive rearing of game birds for shooting. More widely, I would like to see an end to the "cage age" of outdated farming practices that cause animals distress and restrict natural behaviour.