Star angers animal welfare groups by importing baby pheasants for the shooting season

Madonna has angered animal welfare groups by importing baby pheasants from France in time for the start of the shooting season.

The Material Girl, 48, and her husband Guy Ritchie, 37, have been keeping the chicks on their 1,200-acre estate on the Wiltshire-Dorset border. The 1,000 birds are being allowed to mature alongside 31,000 other chicks brought in from Wales for when the shooting season starts on 1 October.

The young birds cost as little as 70p each to buy from producers in France and cross the Channel on ferries. Animal welfare groups claim that they are hatched in a battery farm environment and raised in miserable conditions merely to be shot.

City bankers and brokers pay up to £10,000 a day to shoot on Madonna’s Ashcombe House estate, now regarded as one of the top 10 game sites in the country. Celebrity guests include the couple’s friends Brad Pitt and Vinnie Jones.

Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid, says: ‘Shame on Madonna. She thinks that when she puts on her plus fours she is part of the landed gentry. But this is not in harmony with nature. It is the production of factory birds to provide a live shooting gallery.’

A spokeswoman for Madonna says: ‘Both Madonna and Guy have stopped shooting. We can confirm that the estate got 1,000 birds from France as an experiment this year but we won’t be doing it again.’