Better There was a Duck-shooting Season

Subject: Better There was a Duck-shooting Season
From: Alkirna Tours <>
Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2003 14:59:26 +1030
Hi Everybody

Now I am sure plenty of my fellow birdwatchers will not like the title of this note nor some of the statements in it nonetheless the naive stupidity of a headline stating that  "Drought has a bright side for ducks" I feel must be challenged.

At the moment there are hundreds of Freckled Ducks on Kangaroo Island desperately trying to find somewhere in this parched continent to survive as their usual habitat has totally dried up. Every other wetland here is seething with waterfowl and this is the first time in eleven years I have seen Freckled Duck on the island.
Research by scientists such as Dr Harry Frith using banding techniques have shown that in a devastating drought such as the one we are in the grip of at present Australian waterfowl scatter in every direction trying to survive. They fly to New Zealand, New Caledonia, New Guinea, Indonesia trying to find some refuge, most of them die, there is no bright side.

Conversely duck-shooting is sustainable, again referring to Dr Harry Frith in "Waterfowl in Australia" of a given population of Grey Teal the mortality rates are first year 60%, second year 80%, third year 96%. His studies at that time showed the shooting pressure accounted for 11% of the mortality, insignificant compared with the natural death rate. If we had a duck-shooting season this year it would mean we were not in the grip of the prolonged drought that is devastating waterfowl populations.

It is easy to focus on the scapegoat of the evil duck-shooter yet by doing this we are becoming bogged down in emotive issues and losing sight of the big picture. In my opinion this is the biggest crisis faced by waterfowl in Australia since white settlement. In the last 200 years our wetlands have never been so controlled, degraded and destroyed.
In earlier times after a drought such as this one the waterfowl would recover with the massive floods that would inevitably spread out across the inland plains when the big rains eventually came. When the rains come now they will probably only fill the dams and reservoirs that have been sucked dry by unsustainable irrigation practices in this country.
If we care about conservation of waterfowl, forget about duck-shooting concentrate on the unsustainable rice and cotton farming that has sucked the biggest river system in the country dry.
When we see as was publicized a few weeks ago the country's deputy prime minister Mr Anderson stating they would not consider closing down one farm if that was what was needed to improve the health of the Murray River then that is where our problems lie.

Over the years the people who have put more money and effort into wetland conservation in Australia than any other group have been the duck-shooters. I am sure that many of you have visited the magnificent crater lakes and vegetated islands of Tower Hill near Warnambool in Victoria. Before that land was purchased by duck-shooters it was a degraded, denuded area infested by rabbits, foxes and weeds. They started the process of restoration and in due course passed the control of the land back to the state of Victoria.

The argument against duck-shooting is an ethical one on the basis of cruelty. It would be incorrect to say that there is not pain and suffering caused to animals and birds by hunting, but as you sit down to your chicken dinner raised in cruelty in a factory farm or you have your roast lamb I would suggest you would not eat it if you have seen the cruel process of mulesing sheep. It is easy to condemn hunters for being cruel but I would suggest only the vegetarians are arguing from a position of strength. The other point is it any more ethically wrong to shoot a duck than it is to haul a fish out of the ocean and to leave it to drown slowly in air.

I am a birdwatcher, I have been actively involved in conservation issues in the eleven years I have lived on Kangaroo Island and I am a fourth generation duck-shooter, they are excellent food and I eat what I shoot. In a few minutes I will head along the shore here at American River to look for some egrets, Eastern Curlews, spoonbills and all the ducks that are here trying to survive.

Ken Grinter

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