The British royal family has received a mix of media coverage in the last few weeks when it comes to wildlife. After releasing a video underscoring their commendable commitment to ending the illegal trade in animal parts with his father Charles, Prince William was criticized for a leisurely boar-hunting trip he had taken the day before. A few days later, aphoto emerged of Prince Harry posing with a dead "trophy" animal, further fanning the outrage.
And now the royals are under fire yet again. A new report reveals that, just last year, more than 7,000 wild animals were killed on the grounds of their Windsor Estate.
The organization Animal Aid uncovered what it calls a "wildlife massacre" from records made available through a Freedom of Information request. All told, 7,129 animals were killed in 2013 -- including 3,901 pigeons, 1,161 rabbits, 325 squirrels, and 159 foxes. Windsor says that most of the animal were considered pests, killed at the request of farmers who rent parcels of the more than 4,800 acres estate.
Pest control aside, Animal Aid says that the large number of foxes exterminated was simply to prevent them from eating pheasants -- a target royals would rather kill themselves.
The list of animal casualties does not appear to include those taken in hunting, which would likely put the death toll considerably higher. Prince Philip, who lives in Windsor Castle, is estimated to have shot more than 30,000 birds in his life, a bloody pastime also enjoyed by his son Charles and grandchildren.
Animal activists are considered that despite their strong leadership on fighting illegal hunting abroad, where many species are facing extinction from rampant poaching, the royal family's treatment of animals closer to home sets a less-than-compassionate example for others to follow.
"It's the whole attitude of the privileged classes," said Queen guitarist and animal activist Brian May. "You can rescue rhinos and elephants in Africa but kill at will anything you want if you're rich."