Ducks will unnecessarily suffer as hunting season proceeds

Published on 26 February 2022

RSPCA dismayed by 2022 duck hunting season announcement

RSPCA Victoria is dismayed by today’s announcement that the 2022 duck hunting season will proceed in March, causing injury, pain and suffering to thousands of native ducks. The announcement of a full-length season and a bag limit allowing hunters to shoot four birds per day will further impact declining waterbird populations.

RSPCA Victoria is disappointed in the Victorian Government’s decision to allow the 2022 duck hunting season to take place, despite animal welfare concerns, declining waterbird abundance and lack of support within the community for duck hunting and is urging a review of the decision.

RSPCA Victoria Policy and Advocacy Manager Clare Brealey said, “RSPCA is opposed to the recreational hunting of any animal for sport due to the inherent and unnecessary injury, pain, suffering, distress or death to the animals involved.

“Duck hunting results in distress, fear, pain and suffering of tens of thousands of birds each year. Using a shotgun results in a substantial number of ducks being wounded, with some individuals surviving, while others will suffer before eventually dying.”

Dr Liz Walker, CEO of RSPCA Victoria said that today’s announcement was made despite clear scientific evidence that the duck hunting season should not proceed.

“Evidence of the inevitable pain and suffering of tens of thousands of ducks during a duck hunting season is indisputable. Furthermore, declining waterbird numbers, as outlined in the Aerial Survey of Waterbirds in Eastern Australia show that populations are in dire need of conservation. It is regrettable that the science and evidence have not been given due consideration and the unnecessary suffering of Victoria’s ducks will continue.

“Our submission to the Game Management Authority (GMA) called for a cancellation of the 2022 duck hunting season based on animal welfare concerns and consistent evidence that waterbird numbers are in decline,” said Dr Walker.

In addition to concerns around cruelty, including duck wounding rates, evidence from the Aerial Survey of Waterbirds in Eastern Australia reports that game species abundances were well below long-term averages with six out of eight game species showing significant long-term declines.

There is also community concern about duck hunting. Recent research conducted by market research firm Kantar showed that 68% of Victorians agree that duck hunting should be banned, clearly illustrating that the majority of the Victorian community is not supportive of hunting ducks for sport.

RSPCA Victoria strongly recommended cancelling the 2022 duck hunting season due to:
1. inevitable suffering of native ducks.
2. long-term declines in game bird species abundance having not recovered
3. climate outlook data and predicted rainfall unlikely to relieve long-term deficits
4. community concern for the welfare of native ducks.

FACTS

Inevitable Suffering
• Duck hunting results in a substantial number of ducks being wounded, with some surviving, whilst others will suffer before eventually dying.
• Australian studies show approximately 12% of birds will be wounded and survive, and approximately 14% will be maimed or crippled, but this rate could be as high as 33%. Therefore, approximately 26% to 45% of birds shot will be wounded, maimed or crippled.
• This wounding rate is unacceptably high and whilst duck hunting remains lawful, must be reduced as a matter of urgency.
• Using the wounding rates of 26% to 33% and comparing this to the reported total harvest figure of 238,666 ducks from the 2019 season (as the 2020 and 2021 seasons were impacted by COVID19), this would mean that over 62,000 ducks were wounded and not killed outright in the 2019 season
• Although the 2021 duck season was severely limited, using the same wounding rates and comparing this to the reported total harvest figure of 52,500 ducks from the 2021 season, this would mean that over 13,00 ducks were wounded and not killed outright.

Climate Outlook
• Current climatic conditions as well as the forecasted conditions from January to March 2022, will not support sustainable hunting.
• Although climate outlooks indicate some areas of Australia are likely to experience above or below median rainfall, Victoria has roughly equal chances of above or below median rainfall
• While recent excess rain due to La Niña has increased rainfall totals, it has not completely accounted for below average rainfall between April 2020 and November 2021. Many areas previously experiencing serious rainfall deficiency are still below average
• Although rainfall has been above average across most of Australia, apart from a few areas which has had below average rainfall including the border of South Australia and Victoria, it has not been sufficient to replenish all habitats to support sustainable waterbird populations.

Game Bird Abundance
• The Aerial Survey of Waterbirds in Eastern Australia demonstrates the dire conditions that wetland birds are facing.
• The Aerial Survey of Waterbirds 2021 report outlines four major indices for waterbirds (total abundance, breeding index, number of species breeding and wetland area index) continue to show significant declines since 1983.
• Total waterbird abundance in 2021 has decreased by 41% from 2020 and decreased by 54% from 2019. It currently remains well below average and is the third lowest in 39 years.
• Total breeding index (nests and broods) did increase from the previous year but is still well below the long-term average.
• Breeding species’ richness did increase but is still below the long-term average and the ninth lowest on record

Victorian Attitudes toward ducks
• Recent research conducted by market research firm Kantar showed that seven in 10 Victorians (70%) indicated that the welfare of native ducks is personally important to them and more than two in five Victorians (41%) suggested that it was extremely important, both of which have significantly increased across the last three survey periods.
• More than two in three Victorians (68%) agree that duck hunting should be banned, whilst more than two in five Victorians (43%) strongly agree duck hunting should be banned.
• At least two thirds (67%) of Victorians continue to oppose duck hunting, with three in five (59%) indicating their strong opposition to the activity.
• The majority of Victorians surveyed have never participated in duck hunting (95%), and the majority of these people would not consider participating in the future (87%).
• Among those who have participated in or would consider participating in duck hunting, more than four in five people (78%) would still be open to travelling to regional Victoria if they could not participate in duck hunting
• More than seven in 10 Victorians (71%) suggested that they would avoid choosing a holiday destination where duck hunting occurs
• More than two in five Victorians (42%) indicating they would definitely avoid holiday destinations where duck hunting occurs.
helters and pounds.

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