Podcast uploaded: Mark Avery | The Common Pheasant

Uploaded to Lush Player June 2019: Mark Avery | The Common Pheasant

A short while back, Dr Mark Avery (friend, colleague, renowned conservationist, author, blogger, and pragmatist) gave me a heads-up about an article he’d written for the prestigious monthly journal British Birds. It was on the pheasant, that utterly familiar but non-native bird released in staggering numbers every year by the shooting industry. It would be called: “The Common Pheasant – its status in the UK and the potential impacts of an abundant non-native”.

Would I like to do a podcast? Do bears etc etc…especially bears that are passionately opposed to the slaughter of wildlife for fun by an industry that patently doesn’t give a damn about the consequences (my words, not Mark’s who is actually quite relaxed about some forms of rough shooting).

Understandably, the resulting interview was embargoed until the magazine had been printed and gone out to subscribers. And that has now happened.

But why the fuss about pheasants? They’re common enough, they’re not under threat, they’re really not especially noteworthy. That’s an interesting question because it suggests we’ve become so normalised to the casual killing of millions of virtually tame birds that we’ve almost stopped questioning it. At least that’s possibly what the shooting industry hopes…

Here’s the intro I wrote for the finished podcast:

“Pheasants. Most birdwatchers or birders barely glance at pheasants anymore they’ve become so ubiquitous, and while non-birders may not know a mallard from a Mandarin, a Kite from a Kestrel, a Blackcap from a Black-throated Diver, the chances are very high that they’ll know what a pheasant is.

Pheasants are everywhere, walking around fields or lying dead by the side of the road, painted on signs and cards or hanging by the throat in shop windows. Remarkably though, pheasants aren’t native to the UK, they’re introduced. Their original range was predominantly China and western Asia – they’re only here, and here in staggering numbers, because some people like to shoot them.

Every year the shooting industry releases vast numbers of pheasants into the countryside. No one is exactly sure how many, or how many survive the so-called shooting season. No scientifically robust studies have been done to properly understand their impact on the environment, their impact on native wildlife which has to compete for scarce food resources, their impact on populations of predators that also kill or scavenge pheasants – the very predators, of course, that that the very same shooting industry claims they need to control to protect their…pheasants.

I spoke with renowned conservationist, author and birder Dr Mark Avery on the publication of a lengthy article he’s written for the prestigious monthly journal British Birds titled ‘The Common Pheasant – its status in the UK and the potential impacts of an abundant non-native’. In our discussion we covered a wide range of the issues that Mark raised in his article – from pheasant ecology to predators, lead shot and Lyme’s Disease and just how many pheasants there are in the UK (answer: no-one really knows…).

Mark’s articlecan be found in the July 2019 issue of British Birds, the monthly journal for all keen birdwatchers. ‘BB’ as its affectionately known has an excellent website which you can find at britishbirds.co.uk. Mark’s equally excellent website, which includes his must-read blog is at markavery.info – he is also a founder member and director of Wild Justice, which, in a neat knot that ties this particular package together, recently took Natural England to court over the General Licence, which – illegally as it turned out – allowed for the ‘control’ of some bird species – including those that gamekeepers and the shooting industry claim threaten their…pheasants.”