Like many, I was surprised when on the morning of the 26th February, the Andrews government announced a duck slaughter season in Victoria.
I wasn’t the only person who lives in regional Victoria who was surprised either, even Jeff Bourman, of the Shooters and Fishers Party, said in relation to the reduced length slaughter;
“…at least we have a season for the moment”
I wish I shared Jeff’s optimism that this may only be a momentary lapse of judgment and that common sense may actually prevail prior to the 2nd May, or Mayday for our wildlife.
Many have questioned the factors that drove the Victorian government to make this decision. A decision that goes against the wishes of an overwhelming number of Labor members, to seemingly try to appease a diminishing few shooters who primarily vote for the Shooters & Fishers or the Coalition.
Those who queried the government’s decision were told;
“While the recent bushfires have had a devastating impact on many native animals, the Game Management Authority have advised this impact has not extended to duck populations or wetland habitat.”
Those who delved further were also told;
“Duck season will bring thousands of visitors to regional towns across the state, pouring much-needed revenue into local economies and supporting local jobs, including in bushfire-affected communities.”
If you’re a shooter the response suggests that regions have been fire-impacted and desperately need your money. If you’re not a shooter the response suggests that the regions haven’t been fire impacted at all so it’s alright for the city slicker cowboys to come in guns a-blazing. It’s all a matter of perspective apparently.
Over the last couple of months, there have been millions of dollars raised to support our wildlife and their rescue after the bushfire crisis killed an estimated 2 billion animals and put some species on the endangered list. Much of the money raised has come from donations from overseas. Generous donors that will be pleased to see Victoria has taken the money in one hand and flipped the bird (pardon the pun) at the donors with the other.
The government has relied on so-called ‘expert’ advice and taken a please nobody approach by allowing a shortened season with a lower carcass count (bag limit). This only serves to confirm that the drought and the bushfire crisis should have seen the season canceled, as it has been previously.
The expert advice the Victorian government relied upon came primarily from Field and Game Australia, an organisation heavily reliant on the shooting of wildlife, in an optimistically titled report “Duck Hunting In Victoria 2020”.
Contained in that report were some pearls of wisdom that came under the heading “Economic and Social Benefits”.
The report claims that in 2019 Victoria accounted for 26.5% of the economic activity created by shooting. While that sounds like a decent percentage it needs to be remembered that Victoria has approximately 24% of Australia’s population. When you also take into account that the biggest state, NSW, as well as the other two biggest states Queensland and Western Australia don’t have a duck season, you would expect Victoria’s percentage of economic activity related to shooting to be much higher. But it isn’t.
The truth is duck shooting is not popular, represents insignificant revenue and is only declining in popularity each year.
The report also found amongst other things that shooters have
- Higher physical activity than the general population
- Higher levels of well-being than the general population
- 92% said hunting helped them spend time outdoors and connecting to nature and special places.
- 87% stated that hunting helped them spend more time outdoors than they would otherwise.
- 87% said hunting enabled them to spend time with people who have a similar outlook
- 83% said that it enabled them to spend time with friends
- 80% said hunting led them to feel more confident
Now far be it from me to be skeptical that this apparently super-fit segment of society is anything but the friendly and confident folk, full of well-being that this report claims, however, some of the bizarre justifications to keep killing our native birds seemed a tad far-fetched.
For example, shooting helps them with “connecting with nature”. I mean, seriously? Destroying nature is now connecting with it. Could an arsonist not use the same line when they head into the bush with a box of matches? Just like arson, shooting wildlife is destroying nature, not connecting with it. However unlike arson, shooting the birds we used to feed as kids, that’s not illegal yet, at least not in Victoria.
I’m also sure the shooters will be happy to know that those special places they refer to will still be there whether they are able to shoot or not.
Spending time with “people who have a similar outlook” is hardly a reason. Neo-Nazi’s hold meetings with like-minded racists for the same reason.
Also, if 87% think that a season helps them spend more time outdoors then that 87% don’t get out much if they’re reliant on a slaughter season of roughly three months.
Field and Game may think these people have the “high levels of well-being”, I’d rather a population that doesn’t need to be holding a loaded firearm in order to “feel more confident”.
So where did Field and Game obtain their information? In the fine print, we find it came from another report, Economic and social impacts of recreational hunting and shooting – Commonwealth Department of Health 2019.
Funny that it was commissioned by the Dept of Health, and didn’t originate from the Sports Minister, considering shooters like to refer to this as sport.
This report was compiled by the Bendigo consultancy firm RMCG. It was based on responses to a survey of 16,576 hunters and shooters. Interestingly at staggering 96% of these responses came from men.
The Executive Summary at the start of this report states;
“Survey respondents were self-selecting and biased towards active hunters and shooters.”
And finishes with the suggestion that;
“Further research on this topic should focus on establishing a reliable and unbiased estimate of the activity levels of hunters and shooters.”
I wonder if unbiased research was looked into by the Victorian government.
Even one of the highest authorities on Australian Waterbirds Dr Richard Kingsford was quoted by Field and Game on one page of Birdlife Australia’s recent report. His quote is on a page that has a map of Victoria’s regions showing how many of them have had below-average rainfall or the lowest on record.
“Down here in Victoria was so different to what we have seen elsewhere… the wonderful green carpet of pastures and full dams everywhere. There were some of these dams with black duck and grey teal. This was so different to other parts of the survey. Waterbirds seem to be doing well in this the most southern part of the mainland.”
This misrepresentation of the work of Dr Kingsford and others from the University of NSW shows little or no respect for detailed analysis. Their detailed report shows Australian birdlife in a state of crisis.
Birdlife Australia has released its own response to the announcement of the duck slaughter season. The below tweet provides a neat summary.
Progressive governments are supposed to lead the way.
We expected better.
You can sign Animals Australia’s petition against the slaughter here.