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End recreational duck shooting in Victoria

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Call for the Victorian Labor Party to introduce a policy to ban the recreational shooting of native waterbirds before the November 2014 election

 

The 2014 Victorian recreational duck shooting season opened on 15 March and runs for three months.

 

Recreational duck shooting is legalised animal abuse.  Apart from the inherent cruelty, many wetlands with rare, threatened and protected species are opened to shooting.

 

Labor with support of the Greens can bring an end to this cruel ‘sport’.  The Labor Party’s Environment Policy Committee has recently passed a motion to ban the recreational shooting of native waterbirds in Victoria.  This is a major move forward. However, the political wing of the Victorian Labor Party does not have to adopt the policy committee’s motion.  Those opposed to this cruel activity need to pressure the Victorian Labor Party in the lead-up to the November election.  One-way of applying pressure is to vote Greens first and Labor last, if Labor fails to adopt this policy.

 

Draconian new laws passed by the Napthine Liberal/National Government could see rescuers fined up to $17, 500 for trying to help native waterbirds.  The Labor Opposition failed to oppose the new legislation, instead abstaining.

 

Victorian Liberal, National and Labor politicians legitimise extreme acts of cruelty to native waterbirds that would normally be criminal offences.  The Greens oppose recreational duck shooting. The Campaign Director of the Coalition Against Duck Shooting Laurie Levy said: “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”. (Media release 12/3/2014)

 

In Victoria, apart from the RSPCA, only two government departments can prosecute for cruelty to animals – the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) and Victoria Police.  Unfortunately, Occupational Health and Safety regulations prevent RSPCA inspectors from being on the wetlands to prosecute cruelty issues, because recreational duck shooters are considered too dangerous. 

 

DEPI doesn’t prosecute because the Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh has a serious conflict of interest.  Peter Walsh is the minister responsible for the duck shooting season as well as being the minister overseeing the RSPCA.  Therefore it becomes difficult for the RSPCA to prosecute for cruelty to native waterbirds when its minister is responsible for this cruelty.  Victoria Police simply don’t have the time and resources.

 

The new legislation to keep rescuers off the wetlands was introduced by Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh in an attempt to prevent rescuers from exposing the illegal shootings of protected and threatened species.  For example, an illegal massacre of native waterbirds, including about 200 rare & threatened Freckled Ducks took place the Box Flat private wetland in 2013.  The government would prefer that these incidents, which embarrass the government, do not receive publicity.

 

The Box Flat massacre of birds took place in the minister’s electorate and the 150 or so shooters who were present on this wetland were reportedly mainly locals who would have been the minister’s constituents.  It is therefore not surprising that DEPI’s investigation has still not lead to a single prosecution.

 

Over the years, successive Victorian Liberal and Labor governments have enacted legislation to keep rescuers and the media off duck shooting wetlands.

It’s only because of the courage and commitment of volunteer rescuers that wounded waterbirds continue to be rescued, despite the dangers from shooters, the threat of heavy fines and potential court battles.   And the media continues taking pictures and writing stories.

 

Recreational duck shooting has been banned in three states (Western Australia, 1990; NSW, 1995 and Queensland, 2005).  In Victoria, duck shooter numbers have declined from over 95,000 in 1986 to about 22,500 today, with duck shooter numbers making up only 0.4 per cent of Victoria’s population.

 

In Victoria, a so-called modern-day Labor Party has the same policy on duck shooting as the Liberal/National conservative government.  As the Liberal Party relies on the pro-duck shooting National Party to form a coalition government, the duck issue can only be won if the Labor Party introduces a policy to ban recreational duck shooting.  This policy would accord with public opinion, with three out of four Victorians opposed to the recreational shooting of native waterbirds (Morgan Research poll Oct 2007).  It would also recognise the community’s growing concern about animal cruelty (with duck shooters wounding an average at least one in four birds shot) and the need to protect Australia’s native waterbirds.

 

The Labor Party once had the vision to protect Victoria’s penguins by establishing tourism at Phillip Island.  Today the Penguin Parade generates about $200 million each year.  It would show farsightedness for the Victorian Government to also develop a regional wetlands tourism industry.

 

 



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