ANIMAL RIGHTS groups have pledged to step up their campaign against the commercial shooting of game birds.

With the hunting ban imminent, groups such as Animal Aid, the League Against Cruel Sports and the Labour Animal Welfare Society are redirecting resources previously targeted at hunting.

They now intend to publish more research to raise public awareness of some issues surrounding the breeding and shooting of game birds.

Its not bandwagon jumping. This is something we have been investigating over a long period of time,” said Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler.

“We’re not calling for a ban on the shooting of wild birds – although we wish people wouldn’t – but for a ban on the breeding and rearing of birds for shooting.”

A spokesman for LAWS said: “We’re a long time off getting a ban, but there are aspects of shooting that need addressing. In the meantime, we will continue to campaign against live exports.”

The groups are united in their disapproval of animals bred solely for shooting and will continue to lobby members of the environment, food and rural affairs committee and officials at DEFRA to use the Animal Welfare Bill to ban the breeding of animals for shooting sport.

“We want the government to follow the lead of Holland where there is a total ban on the breeding of birds for shooting sports,” said Mr Tyler. The League, which said it hoped to achieve improvements in breeding and rearing conditions and reduce the number of birds shot, has admitted it is now moving resources away from hunting to focus on shooting.

“When we have thoroughly investigated and attempted to tackle the animal welfare problems inherent in the industry and if welfare doesn”t improve, then we would consider pressing for a ban in the interests of animal welfare,” said Mr Tyler.

The Game Conservancy Trust has defended game reared in managed conditions, saying all game dealers have to adhere to a code of practice overseen by DEFRA and that the Animal Welfare Bill will further strengthen the code of practice.

The GCT credited the preservation of Britain’s moorland areas to shooting. “Without grouse shooting, moorland in this country would have been planted over with conifers long before SSSIs could have protected them,” said Stephen Tapper, the GCT’s director of policy and public affairs.

“Studies show that where woodland and farmland is managed for game, a large number of other species benefit from these practices.”