Deep disappointment in duck hunting call

Published on 24 February 2023

RSPCA Victoria is deeply disappointed in the Victorian Government’s decision to proceed with the 2023 duck hunting season despite significant animal welfare concerns, declining waterbird abundance and lack of support within the community and is imploring a review of the decision.

RSPCA Victoria CEO, Dr Liz Walker said she was dismayed by today’s announcement that the 2023 duck hunting season will proceed in April causing injury, pain and suffering to thousands of native ducks.

“In addition to animal suffering, today’s announcement of a modified season running from 8:00 am closing 30 minutes after sunset each day from Wednesday 26 April 2023 to Tuesday 30 May 2023, and a bag limit allowing hunters to shoot four birds per day will further impact declining waterbird populations.

“Regardless of the reduced season length, based on a 35-day hunting season approximately 87,000 birds will be killed during the 2023 Victorian duck hunting season and up to 35,000 wounded and left to die.

“While we are pleased to hear of a review and the implementation of a Legislative Council Select Committee to examine hunting arrangements of native birds, we are deeply disappointed in the decision to proceed with the 2023 season and urge the government to reconsider.

“Today’s decision does not reflect the evidence that supports a ban on the activity. As calls for a duck hunting ban in Victoria grow louder due to animal welfare concerns and species abundance declines, the research indicates that two in three Victorians (66%) oppose it therefore we are surprised to hear of the government’s decision to proceed with a season and urge them to reconsider the decision based on the very clear evidence.”

There are four clear evidence-based rationales that support a duck hunting ban:

  • Inherent animal welfare issues that cannot be mitigated
  • It is not sustainable for duck populations based on climate outlook data
  • There are significant issues with hunter knowledge and capability
  • It is not in line with community expectations

As was recently acknowledged by the Game Management Authority, which regulates the season, research shows the wounding rate for ducks could be between 6-40%. When using the reported total harvest figure of 262,567 ducks from the 2022 season, this would equate to between 15,700 and 105,000 ducks having been wounded and not killed outright in the 2022 season.  Using the 2022 harvest figure as the bag limit was the same but adjusting for the reduced 2023 season length between 5,250 and 35,000 birds will be wounded based on the 6-40% wounding rate.

Recent rainfall data from the Bureau of Meteorology highlights that rainfall has decreased by about 10 percent during the key months that would normally supply waterbird habitat (April to October) over the past 22 years and the Bureau predicts this trend will only continue. This is particularly worrying when six out of eight game duck species continue to show significant long-term declines in abundance.

Research commissioned by the GMA in 2020 relating to hunter knowledge and capability showed that best practice hunting and the current rules are not well understood.  When asked about dispatching downed ducks, only 13% of respondents answered correctly, when asked about identifying game ducks, only 20% of answered correctly and when asked about minimising wounding, only 37% of respondents answered correctly.

Research shows that two in three Victorians (66%) say that they oppose duck hunting, 68% of metropolitan residents are opposed and 61% oppose it in regional Victoria, clearly illustrating lack of support for duck hunting from the Victorian community with only slight variation between metro and regionalareas.

Estimates show that only 11,549 hunters hunted in 2022, meaning only 0.17% of the Victorian population is actively participating in duck hunting, illustrating that a ban will have negligible impact on the economy due to the extremely limited participation rate. In addition, there is little evidence that regional economies derive any economic benefit from duck hunting, in fact, research suggests that there are more potential tourism benefits from eco-tourism than duck hunting.

“We look forward to participating in a review and remain hopeful the government will ban duck hunting once and for all,” said Dr Walker.

RSPCA is opposed to the recreational hunting of ducks as it causes unnecessary injury, pain, suffering, distress or death to the animals involved.  For more information, visit RSPCA Knowledgebase here.

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