AN employee at one of the most exclusive and expensive shoots in the country - the Chargot Estate in Luxborough, West Somerset - has been cautioned for offences under the Animal Welfare Act and Game Act.

The case was brought following an undercover investigation Animal Aid, which has campaigned against the bird-shooting industry for more than 15 years.

One of the group’s investigators discovered what is known as a ‘ladder trap’, used by gamekeepers to catch corvids (magpies, crows, etc) at the estate.

Such traps use a decoy or ‘lure’ bird to attract other birds of the same species, who enter the cage but cannot escape – their fate is to be killed by a gamekeeper.

Such traps are commonly used by gamekeepers in order to keep game birds alive until the start of the shooting season.

The game birds are fated to become little more than feathered targets for wealthy shooters, with the Chargot Estate charging up to £2,500 per person for some of its shoot days.

Animal Aid’s undercover work at the estate involved leaving a camera trained on the trap for 44.5 hours continuously between May 30 and June 1 this year.

The trap was visited four times during the recording by the employee, including one visit of six minutes to make repairs to the trap, which was baited with corn and a dead rabbit.

However, the employee had set the trap without water or a perch for the decoy bird, a breach of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and none of the tapped birds were tended to or given water during visits.

One of the rooks in the cage trap had blood on his beak, indicating that he had become injured whilst trying to escape the trap.

A ‘non-target’ pheasant should also have been released immediately on inspection after getting stuck in the trap.

The investigator, concerned for the birds’ welfare due to the lack of water and high temperature, released the trapped birds.

Animal Aid campaign manager Fiona Pereira said: “The birds who are caught in such traps are beautiful, sentient birds who react with terror and desperately try to escape.

“The public probably has no idea this green and pleasant land is being ruthlessly stripped of its wildlife for commercial interests.

“We wanted to show what the birds have to experience as they wait out the hours, with night falling and no escape.

“Their ultimate fate, of course, is to be clubbed to death by a gamekeeper.”

Gwyn Evans, Chargot Estate managing director, said: “I do not condone what the employee has done; he has been disciplined.

“The employee in question is not a gamekeeper, he is a farm worker, and was acting in his own time without the knowledge of the estate.”