Hunting, especially duck hunting, has been under attack by animal rights groups for many years. Opposition to duck hunting is purely about animal rights (not animal welfare) and is ideologically driven. The groups opposing everyday Australians from participating in duck hunting are fundamentally opposed to any utilisation or consumption of animal product or food, be it hunting, fishing, farming or riding sports.
Animals Australia, one of the biggest animal rights groups in Australia, is leading the campaign against the reintroduction of a managed recreational harvest in New South Wales. Duck hunting in New South Wales has for many years been managed under a pest mitigation program, instead of a regulated duck season. This management regime is currently under review and if common sense prevails, once again, New South Wales will treat its sustainable wild duck populations as a resource and not a pest.
Animal rights groups continue their lie about wounding rates in hope to push their agenda. This is their only angle of attack left, since their lies regarding hunters driving duck populations to extinction has been proven wrong. Indeed, recent surveys have indicated some of the highest population levels ever recorded. Animals Australia and many of their supporting organisations continue to state wounding rates of at least one wounded for every four ducks shot. This rate is completely wrong. These groups continue to rely on a computer model built and engineered by an animal rights activist to support and promote their views. It has not passed peer review in a credible scientific journal in wildlife science. It simply cannot be taken as a credible instrument to measure a wounding rate, especially in the context of modern duck hunting practises.
Dr Grahame Webb, one of the Australia’s leading scientists in the field of sustainable use of wildlife, conducted a detailed review of the wounding model. He stated that the computer simulation model used for predicting wounding rates cannot and does not predict accurately, and for the purposes of discussing real rates of wounding in the field, it should be ignored. It has been more than 10 years since that review was undertaken and there has not been any new information to validate the wounding rate claims made by animal rights activists or their organisations.
Even activities by animal rights activists do not support the wounding model that they use to justify their claims. During a 2011 duck rescue operation at Lake Buloke near Donald in Victoria, the 100 plus duck rescuers retrieved less than a dozen ducks. At the time, approximately 2000 hunters bagged themselves four ducks each on average. The activist wounding model suggested that there should be an extra 1995 wounded ducks waiting rescuing, but clearly, there was not.
Duck hunters and their groups have practical experience and knowledge that modern hunting carried out in accordance with a responsible code of conduct, as outlined in the Animal Welfare Code of Practice, ensures a wounding rate of less than 5% within a local population of birds. These figures take into consideration the vast improvements in hunting technique and hunting regulations since published Australian studies in the 1970s and 1980s quoted wounding rates of less than 20% (Norman 1976, Norman & Powell 1981, and Briggs et al 1985).
Dr Webb also expressed that the wounding of animals during legitimate, legal hunting activities can be minimised by various means, but not avoided altogether. It is equivalent of incidental catch in fishing operations and should perhaps be treated in a similar way. Hunting as a method of obtaining wild food produces no greater risk to the mortality and conservation status of wild ducks than the farming methods used in all forms of animal (poultry, livestock and fish) production systems.
Any change in the management of wild duck in New South Wales or other states that make them a resource and not a pest should be applauded. It is well known that duck hunting brings valuable tourism dollars into regional areas. The health benefits to people getting out from the city and into the natural environmental and harvesting the best in free-range organic food should not be underestimated. The culture of hunting in many overseas countries is strong, and with the growing multicultural society we have in Australia, the increase in hunting activity is sure to occur at a steady rate.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently reaffirmed its support of the sustainable use of wildlife at the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress. The IUCN’s Motion 151 ‘Respecting ecologically sustainable use of abundant biological resources’ supports Australian duck hunting where an abundant resource is sustainably utilised and the activity directly results in conservation, social and economic benefits.