Coalition Against Duck Shooting

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A message from Laurie Levy to Simon Toop, Director Game Victoria

 
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Duck Rescuers will be back on Victoria’s Wetlands on Saturday March 15, 2014

Victoria's season of senseless cruelty and destruction will go ahead (courtesy of the Napthine Government and supported by the Labor Opposition)

Duck shooting is government sanctioned cruelty.

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Duck hunting season opens with tougher laws aimed at protesters

By Oliver Milman theguardian.com, Tuesday 18 March 2014 14.47 AEST

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Camouflaged men and women brandishing guns, animal lovers in fluoro bibs and army-issue goggles, dead ducks scattered on the steps of parliament – the start of Victoria’s duck hunting season has always involved a degree of theatre.

At Lake Elizabeth, near the town of Kerang, the main actors in this annual stand-off, along with a small battalion of police, spent a great deal of time loitering by the water’s edge, waiting for their lines.

The problem, as always, was ducks. Only this time there weren’t many of them. About 3,000 were on the lake the night before, only to be scared away by the 6am arrival of the duck rescuers, the hunters grumbled. Rescuers said the numbers were down partly as a result of the dry conditions.

Once the birds arrived, guns were shouldered and some direct hits were taken. A duck rescuer, who had waded into the water, brought a wounded duck to a triage tent set up to tend to the animals, only for it to expire.

This year’s season (you can shoot ducks in Victoria for another 12 weeks, if you have a licence) comes with a significant new context – Victoria’s controversial anti-protest laws.

Police are now able to remove protesters from a site for up to 12 months, while specific penalties around duck hunting have been stiffened. Going within 25 metres of the water’s edge without a licence can carry a fine of $8,661, where previously it was $1,450. The fine for “harassing, hindering or obstructing” a hunter has been doubled from $2,890.

“It was a test case today,” said Laurie Levy, a veteran of anti-duck hunting activity since 1986, when he first waded onto the wetlands to rescue the fowl. Levy symbolically entered the lake only to be politely escorted out by police. He ended up with a $360 fine and a banning order.

Levy and his group, the Coalition Against Duck Hunting, claim the hunters and the government are in cahoots. Instead of banning duck hunting, which they say is cruel, the government is pandering to the hunting lobby and curtailing the rights of protesters, the Coalition says.

Protesters at Lake Elizabeth in Victoria, Australia Photograph: Tim Mummery for the Guardian
“They can bring in the laws, it won’t stop us fighting it because we are here for the waterbirds,” Levy told Guardian Australia, at the boundary of the park from which he’d just been expelled.

“When we started in 1986 there were 100,000 duck shooters and just 15 rescuers. The shooters and the government couldn’t understand it because those birds had only ever been victims, collateral damage.”
NSW, Queensland and Western Australia have all banned duck hunting, reinforcing Victoria’s position as the activity’s heartland state. Levy says the tide is turning in his group’s favour, that duck hunting will soon be seen in the same light as harpooning whales.

“The Victorian government has been slow to respond but duck hunting is no longer acceptable to the Victorian public and should be banned immediately,” he said.

“Shotguns are imprecise instruments. When triggers pull the shot spreads, one or two pellets out of 200 may hit a bird. It can be lodged next to a wing, or next to a nerve.

“This brutality is all so hunters can get their kicks from blowing these creatures out of the sky. When duck shooters hit a bird and it topples out of the sky, you hear this roar go up, this cheering, laughter, where they have no empathy for the suffering of that bird.

“Rescuers feel that empathy, they feel the pain those birds are going through, which is why they risk lives every year.”

That risk is tangible. In 2011, a duck rescuer was accidentally shot in the face by a 14-year-old (in Victoria, people can hunt from the age of 12). She narrowly avoided losing her sight. Game Victoria, the government body that oversees hunting, said she was in a prohibited area at a prohibited time.

Back at Lake Elizabeth there is little sign of human-on-human violence. Hunters and rescuers sit side-by-side in their respective camps, eating sandwiches and studiously ignoring each other in an almost genteel antipathy.
Simon Toop, the director of Game Victoria, stressed to Guardian Australia that while the state offers good opportunities for game hunters, the practice is tightly regulated.

Shooters have to pass a wildfowl identification test to ensure they don’t kill a threatened species. They can fill their bags with a maximum of 10 birds each and are not allowed to fire onto the water unless it’s to put a bird out of its misery. But the protest laws have been toughened.

“The existing laws weren’t having a deterrent effect,” Toop said. “People were putting themselves at risk, hunters at risk and our wildlife officers at risk.”

Rescuers aim to scoop up birds that have been shot and take them to be rehabilitated. This strategy causes consternation among hunters.

“I shot a bird, it landed on the ground and the bloke grabbed the wounded duck and ran off with him before we could humanely kill it,” said hunter Joe Murrone.

“The greenies make things unsafe, they make things cruel. The fines need to be heavier. Put them in jail for all I care, teach them a lesson.”

The large police presence and rescuer angst over the shot ducks – as well as the annual ritual of placing dead, protected birds onto the steps of state parliament – raises interesting questions about why we value some animals more highly than others.

For whatever reason, ducks have hit a nerve, and the protests against their killing require significant resources for policing and regulation.

“Our society has got into a terrible contradiction and doesn’t realise it,” said Collin Wood, of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia. “If you took pictures of what happens in abattoirs and showed people, they’d be horrified and they’d go off meat. We look at a cow and just think it’s a steak, whereas ducks are wild, free animals.

“Our society hides its head in the sand. If you’re there eating a chicken or steak, don’t criticise me because I kill my own meat. Don’t preach morals to me, because you don’t have any.”

At Lake Elizabeth, the hunters discuss how they will be adding duck to their favourite pasta dish later. But the commercial sale of duck is banned, something Wood feels is wrong.

“This could be a clean, green food source,” he said. “But we haven’t taken that opportunity.”
Wood said the vast majority of hunters were responsible people who provided valuable income for rural communities. But there are aberrations.

Last year a massacre at a private wetland near Boort resulted in almost 800 ducks shot and left in the water. This total included 155 non-game birds, including 40 rare freckled ducks and several black swans. No prosecutions have been made for this slaughter and the government has refused to reveal information on the case.

“We abhor that behaviour,” Wood said. “How that happened, we’re not quite sure.”

For the rescuers, the failure, so far, to prosecute and the new protest laws seem likely to have a galvanising effect.

“We’re not going to stop fighting this,” Levy said. “Duck shooting is legalised government cruelty.”


 
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Media Release

COALITION AGAINST DUCK SHOOTING

Monday, March 17, 2014

More massacred Freckled Ducks displayed outside Premier’s office, 10am today

Call for the Director of Game Victoria to resign or be sacked

image: Freckled duck receiving veterinary treatment

This weekend, on the opening of the 2014 Victorian duck shooting season, a Coalition Against Duck Shooting rescue team recovered 33 illegally shot, rare and threatened Freckled Ducks, and other species, from Lake Lonsdale near Stawell.   Another four wounded Freckled Ducks are receiving veterinary care.

Campaign Director Laurie Levy today said:  “Following last year’s Box Flat massacre of Freckled Ducks and other species, Victoria’s Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said in the media that he is more than confident shooters will do the right thing this duck hunting season.   But Mr Walsh must be either extremely naive or is trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes.  Inevitably, recreational duck shooting remains an uncontrolled slaughter.  

“Because both Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh and the Director of Game Victoria, Simon Toop, have again failed to protect this threatened species, we are calling for long-time duck shooter Mr Toop to either fall on his sword or be sacked.

“Incredibly, the Labor Opposition has a similar policy on recreational duck shooting as the Liberal/National  government, so it will be interesting to see if Labor leader Daniel Andrews condemns the slaughter, either through the media or in Parliament,” Levy said.

Unique to Australia and one of the rarest waterbirds in the world, Freckled Ducks number only around 20,000 according to a Birdlife Australia representative.  Many have flown to Victoria seeking refuge from drought conditions in Queensland and New South Wales, but their numbers are now being further decimated by recreational duck shooters.

The Napthine Government’s Game Authority Bill, allowing shooters to self-regulate, will most likely pass through the Upper House next week.  Yet the massacres of Freckled Ducks in 2013 and 2014 clearly demonstrate that shooters cannot self-regulate and that duck shooting will always be an uncontrolled slaughter.

“If the government successfully keeps the public off shooting wetlands, the evidence of these appalling massacres will never come to light,” Levy concluded.

Thirty-three illegally shot Freckled Ducks and other species will be displayed outside Premier Napthine’s office at 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne, 10am today.


For further information, contact:

Laurie Levy
Campaign Director,
Mobile:  0418 392 826

image: Freckled duck X-ray showing pellets in wings


Media Release

COALITION AGAINST DUCK SHOOTING

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rescuers to target wetlands in northwest Victoria on the opening of the 2014 duck shooting season – Saturday, March 15

New Draconian legislation is aimed at protecting the Minister from embarrassment

The Coalition Against Duck Shooting rescue team will target wetlands in northwest Victoria on the opening of the 2014 recreational duck shooting season this weekend.  “The final decision as to which wetland we will target on Saturday morning may not be made until very late on Friday night,” Campaign Director Laurie Levy said today.

Levy said that draconian new laws just passed by the Napthine Government could see rescuers fined up to $17,500 for trying to help native waterbirds and were a blatant attempt to remove duck rescuers from Victoria’s wetlands.

“Yet without our volunteer rescuers and veterinarians, no one would be helping the wounded birds, collecting the illegally shot threatened and protected species, and reporting on the appalling brutality that duck shooters inflict on our native waterbirds.

“The new legislation was introduced by Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh to prevent the embarrassment of Box Flat type massacres from being exposed to the public.  It’s no surprise that a Liberal/National Government would introduce Joh Bjelke-Petersen type laws in an attempt to protect a dwindling number of duck shooters – but it is a surprise that Daniel Andrews’ Labor Party supports it.

“Last year on the Opening of the recreational duck shooting season, Minister Walsh and Game Victoria Director Simon Toop spun the line to the media that duck shooters were well-behaved.  The very next day, they were severely embarrassed when the Box Flat massacre was exposed.

“Recreational duck shooting is a dying activity being propped up by both major political parties.  In 2014, as duck shooter numbers comprise only 0.4 per cent of Victoria’s population, the question we need to ask is: Will Victorians, who support an end to recreational duck shooting, accept native waterbirds being left to the mercy of shooters?”  

Levy said that last year, the Coalition Against Duck Shooting wrote to former veterinarian and now Premier, Dr Denis Napthine, and Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh, offering to disband the rescue team and close down the organisation before this year’s duck shooting season.

“In return, the Premier or Agriculture Minister were asked to assure the Victorian public that native waterbirds do not suffer pain when hit by shotgun pellets, and that there is no cruelty involved in recreational duck shooting.  Yet Dr Napthine and Mr Walsh have remained silent, which is an admission of the cruelty involved in recreational duck shooting.

“Mr Walsh is in charge of the duck shooting season, and at the same time, is the Minister responsible for the RSPCA.  His job is to protect the shooters by allowing them to commit gross acts of cruelty without being prosecuted.  He has a serious conflict of interest,” Levy said.  “The normal laws under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act are waived for the three-month season so that duck shooters can inflict the most shocking cruelty on native waterbirds without fear of being prosecuted.  

“While a number of wetlands have been closed to shooting because threatened species are present, many wetlands with rare and threatened species will still be left open again this year,” Levy concluded.

For further information contact:  Laurie Levy, Campaign director, Mobile 0418 392826


 
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History and Victories

2007 & 2008

Moratoriums called in Victoria and South Australia. The rescue team travelled to Moulting Lagoon, the entrance to Freycinet National Park, on the east coast of Tasmania to confront the shooters and protect waterbirds after the Tasmanian government refused to call a moratorium.

2008

Three states in Australia have now banned the recreational shooting of native waterbirds – Western Australia (1990), New South Wales (1995) and now Queensland (10 August 2005)

2005

Queensland’s Premier Beattie becomes the third state Labor government to ban the recreational shooting of native waterbirds.

The Age editorial (19 March) again calls for the recreational shooting of native waterbirds to be banned in Victoria.

The numbers of duck shooters in Victoria drops from 95000 in 1986 to 19,400 today, although only small number were active on the state's wetlands in 2005.

View our Opening Weekend 2005 article

2003

The Sunday Age editorial (12 January) calls on the Victorian Bracks Government to ban the recreational shooting of native waterbirds in Victoria.

The Victorian government calls a moratorium. Rescue team travels to Tasmania for the opening weekend of their duck shooting season.

2002

The Bracks Government's own Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (AWAC) recommends that the recreational shooting of native waterbirds be banned in Victoria because of the inherent cruelty.

2001

Lead shot banned in Victoria.

1995

Premier Bob Carr bans the recreational shooting of native waterbirds in NSW, the second state Labor government to ban the activity.

1993

The Age newspaper editorial (24 March) calls for duck shooting to be outlawed. The first sentence says: 'Duck shooting is not a sport, it is an obscenity'.

1990

The recreational shooting of native waterbirds is banned in Western Australia by the then Labor Government.

 

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Latest Morgan Research Poll - Majority of Victorians want duck shooting banned.

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