WITH the duck shooting season now under way in South Australia, we look at the arguments for and against this contentious issue.
THE CASE FOR
Matthew Godson is a special project officer with Sporting Shooters Association of Australia
When someone asks me "Why would someone go duck hunting?", I always say "for food, of course" and then reply with another question: "Why would someone go fishing?" The simple answer to that question is also "for food, of course".
In the SSAA's 2013 Year of the Hunter, the SSAA is highlighting that duck hunting is a legitimate recreation that exists for food gathering, and has immense social, environmental and economic benefits.
Duck hunters are at the forefront of wetland conservation, raising funds each year to reinvest in rehabilitating wetland ecosystems. Additionally, regional economies benefit from the injection of hunting tourism dollars throughout the season.
There has been immense investment in research and management systems over the past five decades that make modern duck hunting completely sustainable, ensuring that no species of native duck is vulnerable.
Laws require licensed hunters to undertake waterfowl identification testing to gain a hunting permit, and hunting organisations educate their members in ethical hunting practices.
Codes of Practice ensure animal welfare is taken into consideration. Just as the Australian community understands that our farmers follow animal welfare practices, the same applies to hunters.
Hunters operate within the rules of strict government regulations and use a variety of hunting techniques to minimise the potential for pain and suffering. The harvest of fresh, organic, free-range wild food such as fish and duck enables the animal to live a free wild life prior to it being taken.
Opposition to duck hunting is generally based on exaggerated wounding figures, either drawn from foreign research not relatable to Australia conditions, or where 'animal rights' bias has resulted in propaganda that preys upon the uninformed citizen.
South Australian animal rights activist Geoff Russell created a computer wounding model in the 1990s solely to push their agenda. Scientific review of this model found that the proponent came from a position of bias that contravenes the principles of good science. Additionally, recent research indicates that hunting to obtain wild food produces no greater risk to the mortality and conservation status of wild ducks than animal production farming methods.
Individuals have the right to source their food from the wild through duck hunting, just as they do through fishing. Therefore, it is completely flawed for a small group opposed to any form of hunting to seek to remove those rights from a group who do no harm to others and use their passion for wild food as the motivation to volunteer their time to conserve species and ecosystems.
THE CASE AGAINST
Geoff Russell is President of POND Inc, Protect Our Native Ducks Inc
The cruelty of duck shooting is revealed by simple research, frequently repeated. Catch and X-ray a sample of ducks. Many contain pellets embedded in their bodies from a shotgun wounding. Macabre US research where ducks were deliberately crippled and tracked with radio collars indicates recovery is unusual and that the ducks found in these studies represent the tip of a much larger iceberg. This is because a duck hit by a pellet that drills through a liver or kidney will most likely die, slowly, and won't show up in any study.
Shotguns operate by puncturing organs and splintering bones. They are an intrinsically unreliable killing method violating both the spirit and letter of our Animal Welfare Act. A smashed wing will bring a duck down, but a fractured leg or beak will see it fly off to die later. Only when the blast disables the duck completely can the shooter retrieve the duck and wring its neck.
So duck shooting isn't just another way of getting meat. It's like a slaughterhouse where about half the animals escape the killing floor wounded or crippled. The current head of the Department of Environment, Alan Holmes, admitted this as a reasonable estimate of the wounding rate in advice he gave his Minister in the 1990s. Tens of thousands of ducks are wounded each season.
Duck shooters frequently claim their blood sport is a sustainable traditional recreation. Many things are sustainable but cruel and outlawed in our society. Dog fighting, for example. It makes no difference to the barbarism if you eat the losing dog after the fight and call it sustainable.
Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland banned recreational duck shooting many years ago. When Carmen Lawrence banned it in WA, she said: "Our community has reached a stage of enlightenment where it can no longer accept the institutionalised killing of native birds for recreation." Where does that leave South Australia?
New Liberal leader Steven Marshall came out strongly against duck hunting before the last state election and showed what happens when you tackle duck shooters head on. He received a huge swing despite these bullies promising electoral oblivion with their pitiful handful of voters. Polling has shown that the public loathe duck shooter barbarism and it's high time the present Government showed some moral fibre and enforced its legislation by banning duck shooting.
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