The Allan Government has announced that the slaughter of native waterbirds can continue – despite the key recommendation of its own inquiry that duck shooting should end, for good…
The government’s Select Committee, tasked with inquiring into and reporting on the ‘recreational’ shooting of native waterbirds in Victoria, made a monumental and long-awaited recommendation for waterbirds: that the Victorian Government “ends the annual recreational native bird hunting season opening on all public and private land from 2024”.
Victoria’s Premier, Jacinta Allan, ultimately had the final say on whether the recommendations of the committee were accepted, and she decided against it, betraying not only wildlife, but also the majority of Victorians who want to see the shooting end.
By allowing this ‘recreational’ slaughter to continue, the Allan Government has ultimately disregarded the evidence brought to light during the inquiry; the cruelty documented over decades, the avoidable suffering shooting causes to wildlife, the GMA’s complete inability to adequately monitor or oversee shooter behaviour across the vast number of wetlands, and the catastrophic long-term decline of native ‘game’ duck species. Going against the advice of its very own inquiry, the state government has demonstrated that this decision was not one made based on evidence or what the majority of Victorians wanted.
The Allan Government is comfortable with this continuing – are you?
Every ‘shooting season’, hundreds of thousands of native ducks and quail have been shot and killed, or maimed and left for dead on the wetlands to suffer slow, agonising deaths. This has happened for decades, and an end to the cruelty is long overdue.
With hundreds of pellets blasted at their fragile bodies, ducks shot for this bloodsport are ‘lucky’ if they are killed quickly. An estimated one out of every four birds shot are left to suffer. Some may drown in the water. Some struggle in the jaws of retrieving dogs used for hunting. Some are scooped up, only to be injured further and killed at the hands of inexperienced shooters. And for those who managed to escape, they may live in pain for hours or days, only to be preyed upon or eventually succumb to their injuries.
Shooting can also endanger or kill other non ‘target’ animals; those incorrectly identified by shooters, or young birds left abandoned after their parents are killed or have fled in fear. During the first week of the 2023 ‘shooting season’ alone, Wildlife Victoria’s vet triage team assessed 73 native waterbirds who were shot and left to die, eight of which were threatened species.
Victoria’s ‘shooting season’ ended on the 30th of May 2023, and even within the short season, appalling cruelty to wildlife was exposed. The rural location of wetlands across public game reserves and private property, coupled with the number of licenced shooters, makes effective monitoring impossible. So, for as long as shooting is permitted, individual animals will suffer greatly, as will species as a whole.
Here is just some of what was documented during the 2023 ‘shooting season’ in Victoria:
- Ducks illegally shot, including threatened species and non ‘game’ species
- Shooters failing to retrieve ducks they had wounded, instead leaving them on the water to die from their injuries
- Shooters failing to kill birds whom they had wounded, instead leaving them to die from their injuries in canoes, hanging from cartridge belts, or allowing them to drown
- Shooters continually seen using an ineffective and cruel technique to try to kill ducks, called ‘windmilling’ (swinging them around by their heads)
Inquiry’s record-breaking response never before seen by the Parliament of Victoria
Several thousands of caring Victorians – many of them Animals Australia supporters – have tirelessly opposed ‘recreational’ shooting each year. Finally, after countless emails, letters, phone calls and submissions, the Victorian Government appointed a Select Committee (made up of 9 Members of the Legislative Council) to inquire into, and report on, a broad range of elements (terms of reference) relating to ‘recreational’ shooting.
During the consultation process, the Inquiry into Victoria’s recreational native bird hunting arrangements received more than 10,000 submissions; the most ever received in response to a Victorian inquiry. In addition to written submissions, the committee held public hearings to consider the voices of key stakeholders, including shooting associations, regional communities, and animal protection organisations – Animals Australia gave evidence on behalf of the waterbirds who have suffered or been killed for this bloodsport, and those who face this unnecessary fate in the future.
Considering the information gathered through submissions and the hearings, the all-party committee has now presented its report to Parliament. Their findings included:
- Thousands of ducks would continue to suffer each year even if measures were taken to study and reduce wounding rates
- There is evidence that inhumane methods of killing ducks continue to be used by shooters on Victorian wetlands
- There are inherent difficulties within the agency currently charged with overseeing duck shooting- the Game Management Authority- and these cannot be rectified without a significant investment in resourcing
- Duck shooting season depletes the resources of the GMA, putting the welfare of other animals who are hunted at risk during this time
- It is difficult to access consistent and reliable information on all public areas where bird hunting can occur. The vast land area where bird shooting can occur across the state makes it ‘improbable’ that the GMA can effectively enforce compliance with the law
- There is little data available on the financial benefits of duck hunting in Victoria
- That the government should fund and support increased conservation and restoration projects in Victoria
Despite these clear findings, the Allan Government decided to let the slaughter continue.
We won’t give up until ducks are safe
More than 30 years have passed since duck shooting was first banned in an Australian state – if the recommendations were accepted, Victoria would have been brought into line with WA, NSW and QLD. Most importantly, it could have spared hundreds of thousands of gentle native birds from being killed and maimed for ‘fun’ each year.
The shooting lobby is a minority – yet it is vocal. To ensure a future where compassion and respect for wildlife are paramount during decision-making, we need to maintain a strong collective voice on behalf of ducks. Let the Premier know how disappointing the decision to continue to allow duck shooting is, and that ethical and responsible leadership would be celebrated not only in Victoria, but nationwide too.