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Sunday, 19 November, 2000, 16:47 GMT
Queen 'killed bird with bare hands'
The Duke of York
The Duke of York also enjoys pheasant shooting
Animal rights campaigners have criticised the Queen after she was photographed wringing the neck of a wounded pheasant at Sandringham House in Norfolk.

She was watching the first pheasant shoot of the year on Saturday when a Labrador brought her the injured bird. She took it from the dog's mouth and used bare hands to kill it.

A freelance photographer captured the moment on film.

The Queen
The Queen has not shied away from taking part in country sports
The Palace has said her actions were not cruel and she was merely ending the bird's suffering.

"It was clearly the most effective and humane way of despatching the injured bird," said a spokesman.

But Dawn Preston of the Hunt Saboteurs' Association said it showed how out of touch the Royals are with public opinion.

"I was absolutely appalled by the Queen's actions, as I am sure most right thinking people will be throughout the country," she said.

"It is an absolutely horrifying incident."

John Bryant, of the anti-hunt campaigning group Protect Our Wild Animals, said the incident was no great surprise.

"The Royal Family has been steeped in slaughtering animals for entertainment as long as there has been a Royal Family but usually these things are not seen," he said.

'Horrific'

"It is horrific example of the brutality and callousness of slaughtering foreign birds for entertainment."

Pro-hunting group, the Countryside Alliance, said the Queen has done nothing wrong and was merely finishing off an injured bird in the quickest and most painless way.

Albie Fox, one of the founders of the Sportsman's Association, which defends shooting sports, said the incident had been sensationalised.

"The sensationalism of the report typifies the lack of knowledge that people have about the countryside today," he said.

Prince Charles
Prince Charles has taken his sons to fox hunts
"Anybody who is a meat eater and agrees with this sensationalism is being hypocritical.

"It is a fact of life that our food chain requires animals to be killed.

"The Queen despatching a pheasant shows that she is in touch with the countryside and the realities of life and death."

Shooting game bird is a widespread sport in Britain but until now has courted less controversy than hunting with dogs.

The incident will again focus attention on the Royal Family's approach to country sports.

Hunting is a controversial political issue but so far the Royal Family has not shied away from taking part in traditional country pursuits.

A year ago the Prince of Wales took both his sons to see the Beaufort Hunt, which takes place close to his Highgrove home in Gloucestershire.

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See also:

28 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Fox hunting season opens
09 Jul 99 | UK
Head to head: Fox hunting
07 Nov 98 | Background
Shooting factfile
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