11 Nov DUCK SHOOTING
“Our community has reached a stage of enlightenment where it can no longer accept the institutionalised killing of native birds for recreation.” These were the words uttered in 1990 by Premier Carmen Lawrence as she banned duck hunting in Western Australia. Twenty-eight years later Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory still surrender their wetlands to a small group of blood sports enthusiasts for almost a quarter of each year.
WHAT IS DUCK SHOOTING?
In semi-darkness, from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset, duck shooters fire into the sky hoping to kill their legal quota of ten ducks per day. Using shotguns, which contain plastic cartridges filled with up to 200 steel pellets to increase their chances of hitting a bird, the even more unfortunate result is often a fractured wing, shattered beak or a broken leg. Birds with these injuries can easily escape a hunter but will be left to die a slow and painful death over the following days. Whilst difficult to quantify, the wounding rate estimates from RSPCA[i] and
The rules vary between states. Here we are specifically referring to Victoria.
- The duck shooting season runs for 12 weeks, beginning the third weekend of March.
- Duck shooters can use any one of hundreds of state reserves and waterways across Victoria or private land.
- There are 26,000 shooters registered in Victoria, which is 0.4% of the population.
- To be a duck shooter you must pass a Waterfowl ID Test, hold a valid game licence and a firearms licence. Unless you are aged 12-17 and being supervised by an adult duck shooter. In which case you don’t need to know how to ID the legal birds to shoot at.
- If you do not hold these permits you are prohibited from approaching within 25 metres of the water’s edge in these public lands designated as hunting areas. Bird watching, dog walking, and picnics become restricted activities.
- There are eight species of duck that are considered ‘game’ birds and therefore allowed to be killed during this season. All through the rest of the year they remain protected, like all other native birds.
- Each day every shooter is allowed to kill up to ten ducks. This is referred to as the ‘bag limit’
Each year since 1986, duck rescue volunteers attend the wetlands to rescue wounded waterbirds and prevent them from being shot in the first place. These rescuers are there every weekend of the season and many weekdays too.
WHY WE OPPOSE DUCK SHOOTING
No animal should be killed for entertainment, and that is solely what a recreational duck shooting season is.
Even those who oppose such a statement must concede that inherent in recreational duck shooting is the significant suffering for birds and ineffective regulation from authorities.
Being shot is not a good way to die for a duck. The kill is often not immediate and sometimes requires the duck shooter to ‘dispatch’ – which means to kill – by swinging the bird around by the neck. It is a violent end.
It is also an activity that guarantees some of the ducks will get away wounded rather than be killed. This will then be a slow and agonizing death over a number of days for this bird. Even an excellent marksman will not hit perfectly every time and the use of a shotgun means that there is a widespread of pellets, not a single bullet, that increases the danger of wounding to nearby birds, not just the target.
Every year there are multiple cases where shooters have killed more than their bag limit or have shot protected species that are not game ducks, which have included swans, endangered ducks like the freckled duck and even bats.
During the opening weekend of the duck season for 2017 at Koorangie Reserve, a massacre larger than seasoned rescuers had ever witnessed took place. Rescuers found it impossible to keep up with the number of wounded innocents needing to be rushed to shore, and the bodies of the dead left behind to rot found them without enough sacks to carry them all. Later, further gruesome discoveries were made. Hundreds of illegally shot ducks were discarded and concealed in a mass grave. Over 260 protected species killed and dumped whilst authorised officers were on shore at the same wetland, supposedly regulating the behaviour of duck shooters.[i] In this pit of hundreds of ducks, not a single bird had been used for food (an attempt to justify the killing often used by shooters); they were thrown away fully intact. These birds were all killed for the entertainment of a few.
THE STORY OF A WOUNDED DUCK
I was standing several hundred metres into a wetland on what would have otherwise been a beautiful day. The sound of the shotgun from a duck shooter just 30 metres from me echoed in my ears, but fortunately, he had not hit any birds all morning. I watched as he reluctantly packed up and began walking back to his car. Without warning, he unslung his weapon and fired rapidly into the sky. A duck fell, hitting the water near where I stood. Judging the distance to be too far, and seeing that I was so much closer, the shooter made no move towards the duck. Instead, he shrugged and resumed walking to his car. The duck flapped one wing furiously, trying to right herself. She struggled to keep her head above water. When I reached her and picked her up I could see the pellets had shattered her wing and possibly one had entered her body, yet her eyes remained alert.
I held her in my arms as gently as possible as I made my way to shore where I hoped to get her to the first aid that may help. I whispered to her what I hoped were soothing words, “Don’t worry, I’ve got you. Hold on.”
I was in sight of shore, so close, but not close enough. I felt a change in the body of the duck held close to me for warmth. I had hoped her injuries would allow a chance at recovery but the sheer trauma of having pellets rip through her was too much for such a little body and her breathing stopped. I walked the rest of the way slowly wanting to scream and rage at the cruelty of the shooter who had taken this life with zero concern, yet I knew that my only option was to get out there again to try to help the next bird because this is the reality of duck shooting.
FAQ AND DEFENCES
“Aren’t ducks pests and have to be controlled? Farmers need their crops protected.”
Only one of the ducks on the game species list is ever seen eating rice farmers’ crops – the wood duck. Environmentally they do more good than harm, eating pest insects and weeds as well as fertilising the fields. In some countries, ducks are even introduced to rice paddies to symbiotically support the production.
“It’s a tradition.”
Many things are a tradition that have ultimately been outlawed. Food is no longer scarce and there are many outdoor family activities available to fill the gap. Society has progressed to the point where more than 70% of the population recognise the need to do away with this barbaric hobby.
“Shooters bring lots of money to rural economies.”
Most of the money spent by duck shooters is spent before they leave, purchasing drinks, food, and petrol near home and not in the small towns near the wetlands.
Ecotourism is a better option for the future. It is estimated to bring in a vastly superior amount of money for regional Victoria as opposed to the 1.5% of income generated by duck shooting.[iv]
“It’s better than factory farmed duck.”
That may be true but posing the statement that way is a logical trick. It implies it is essential for humans to consume the bodies of waterbirds and they will either come from the wetlands or from a factory or so-called ‘humane’ farm. In fact, there is absolutely no physiological need for us to eat ducks and there is no kind way to kill a bird who wants to live. All these methods involve significant and unnecessary suffering.
“At least the ducks get to have a life.”
Yes. And they would like to continue having that life. Shooting kills young and old indiscriminately – separating partners where some of these species mate for life and orphaning ducklings who may not survive being parentless.
GEELONG DUCK RESCUE
Geelong Duck Rescue invite you to join them if you feel that the wounding rate is too high, or that no native bird deserves to suffer and that wetlands are for everyone – most of all for wildlife, not for a select few humans. We believe that duck shooting has no place in Geelong or elsewhere and we strive to see an end to duck shooting in our community.
Geelong Duck Rescue aims to protect our native water birds and the unique environment
Follow us on Facebook or contact us directly if you’d like to get involved!
Author: Natalie Kopas
Geelong Duck Rescue Coordinator
PO Box 620, Altona, Vic, 3018