A world-wide poor harvest in 1916 affected almost every nation from early 1917. Wheat and oats were particualrly difficult to obtain, so supplies of bread, one of the main items in the British diet, was seriously affected. Not only was there less grain to export to Britain from America and Canada, but the British harvest had also failed due to poor weather conditions. The very wet and cold soil also affected the potato crop, which was said to be small and diseased. Food supply was in crisis in Britain, as in other European and American countries.
One solution was to prevent pheasants eating the newly planted crops. As many farm labourers had signed up for the army, mainly due to better pay, far less land was in production and urgent measures were needed. One way was to compel farmers to kill all their pheasants, which had grown in number due to insufficient being killed in previous years. This would help to safeguard the newly planted wheat and oats, so that a better harvest was more likely. The rural police would have been responsible for enforcing this law.