Right: For years, veteran animal liberationist Laurie Levy has confronted duck shooters. Angry clashes have resulted in some cases.'
Arguments against Victoria's new duck shooting regulations
1. These regulations increase the risk of accidental shootings
It has been claimed that the new duck hunting regulations in Victoria will increase the risk of accidental shootings. A number of reasons have been offered in support of this claim.
Firstly the regulations increase the access of very young shooters to the Victorian duck hunting season. Animals Australia has noted, 'The Victorian government hands out Game Licences to juniors for free - without even requiring them to pass a Waterfowl Identification Test (the test that is intended to prevent hunters from killing protected species).
As an indication of the risks associated with allowing young duck hunters to take part in the season, it was reported in The Age on March 18, 2013, that the first accidental shooting in the current season occurred when a boy of ten shot a man in the leg at Yundull, near Benalla, on the first day of the current duck hunting season.
Animals Australia commented, 'Hunting is already a dangerous sport - for humans and animals... These risks become exponentially more dangerous when shotguns are placed in the hands of inexperienced shooters. It is therefore unfathomable that the Victorian Government is now providing financial incentives and exemptions from tests in order to let children shoot at animals.'
It has also been claimed that there are also hazards associated with new regulations which create a new 14-day non-resident Game Licence to facilitate game hunting by visitors to Australia and a new 7-day Game Bird Farm Hunting Licence that will be free of charge. It has been argued that each of these provisions make it harder to ensure that the hunters with these temporary licences are competent and pose no risk to other hunters.
2. These regulations increase the likelihood of protected species being shot
It has been claimed that the new regulations also make it more likely that threatened and endangered species will be accidentally shot by hunters unable to distinguish those species they are allowed to hunt from those they are not.
The new regulations allow hunters as young as 12 and tourists new to the country to acquire a game licence without having to pass a bird recognition test.
On November 14, 2012, in an opinion piece published in The Conversation, Dr. Siobhan O'Sullivan stated, 'In short, children and international visitors who are unlikely to be able to differentiate between native and non-native animals at a distance, will be more readily armed.'
In a Herald Sun news report published on March 24, 2013, it was stated that the Department of Primary Industries, with the assistance of Victoria Police, is investigating after reports that more than 200 rare birds and about 2000 other protected and game species were illegally slaughtered at the Box Flat floodplains near the town of Boort. It is believed the birds were shot on the opening morning of the 2013 recreational duck shooting season.
Anti-shooting campaigners claim they found dozens of freckled ducks, one of the 10 rarest birds in the world, as well as threatened blue-billed ducks and around 50 swans and other protected species after the shoot.
It has been claimed that the increase in shooters who have not passed a bird recognition test makes the slaughter of protected species more likely.
3. These new regulations restrict the access of duck rescuers, protestors and the media
It has been claimed that the new regulations which prohibit bird rescuers coming close to the areas where bids are shot will prevent wounded wildlife from receiving assistance.
On November 14, 2012, in an opinion piece published in The Conversation, Dr. Siobhan O'Sullivan stated, 'Under the new rules duck rescuers will be excluded from the water every single day of the duck hunting session. The ban will commence two hours before dusk, and last until 10 am the following morning. Duck rescuers must also be 25 meters back from the shoreline.
This is a terrible shame for those ducks who could be aided by voluntary veterinary service of the sort provided by the Coalition Against Duck Shooting.'
O'Sullivan went on to claim, 'The most pressing matter from the rescuers' perspective is to assist injured birds. The central focus of duck rescue is the provision of veterinary care to animals that are injured but capable of recovering.'
It has also been noted that the new ban prohibiting non-hunters from coming within 25 metres of the shoreline prevents duck rescuers and protestors from collecting the carcasses of killed protected species and using them to draw attention to the harm done by duck shooting.
Siobhan O'Sullivan has further stated, 'the annual display of dead birds...is a means by which distant happenings are brought to the community's attention. The display provides an opportunity for the majority of the community, who will never be out on the wetlands during duck hunting session, to consider whether the hunting laws made in their name really reflect their values.'
It has also been noted that this 25 metre exclusion zone will inhibit journalists and media photographs from reporting on the operation of the duck hunting season.
Laurie Levy, Campaign Director of the Coalition Against Duck Shooting (CADS), has stated, 'New laws introduced by the Victorian Government will attempt to prevent duck rescuers, journalists, photographers and camera crews from going closer than 25 metres to the water's edge during the 2013 duck shooting season.'
Mr Levy has suggested that the government and the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and the Department of Primary Industry (DPI) are concerned to hide the extent of breaches of their own duck hunting regulations. Referring to the follow-up investigation after a reported slaughter of large numbers of protected duck species near Boort on the first day of the 2013 duck season, Mr Levy stated, 'If DPI was serious about its investigation, why did rescuers find 40 of this endangered species a week later? Surely if they are serious, they would have swept the wetland for carcasses for evidence of the true extent of the illegal slaughter... [This] appears to be more of a cover up of the crime scene than an investigation.'
4. These new regulations are politically motivated
It has been claimed that the new hunting regulations were part of a strategy of the current Victorian government to win voter support in key country electorates and to curry favour with shooters and the gun lobby.
In an opinion piece published in The Sydney Morning Herald, Jo Wilkinson, a retired senior policy analyst who has worked for a number of Australian government regulators, made several claims about the new agency which developed the new regulations. Mr Wilkinson has claimed, 'Ted Baillieu needed the support of shooters to win government in 2010. Recently, the New South Wales government, which lacks a majority in the upper house, needed the votes of two Shooters Party MPs to sell its electricity generators. In both states, deals were done. In NSW, Premier Barry O'Farrell broke an election promise, which means shooters can now hunt in a selection of national parks.'
Commenting on the Victorian Government's 2011 decision to extend the length of the duck hunting season, Laurie Levy, Campaign Director of the Coalition Against Duck Shooting (CADS), stated, 'This season is a political season. DSE hasn't done the studies - they haven't carried out the scientific research [to justify extending the season]...Their reasons are based on the fact there is more water due to rainfall, therefore they just assume there are more birds... [however] even in good climatic conditions, recovery for waterbird populations can take many years.'
Mr Levy argues that there are very strong connections between politicians and shooters. Referring to the duck hunting season, he has claimed, 'The only reason that it's continuing is that it is seen as a political issue. Many politicians say behind the scenes that it isn't about native waterbirds - it's about them trading off their interests.'
In February, 2013, Mr Levy wrote, 'If only Minister Walsh had the political courage to rid this state forever of the annual duck killfest.
Instead, Minister Walsh has capitulated to the burgeoning gun lobby and has now extended the kill season to 12 weeks.'
5. These new regulations were introduced without adequate consultation
It has been claimed that the new regulations were developed and introduced without adequate community consultation.
In an opinion piece published in The Sydney Morning Herald, Jo Wilkinson, a retired senior policy analyst who has worked for a number of Australian government regulators, made several claims about the new agency which developed the new regulations. Mr Wilkinson has claimed that the installation of this agency was intended only to promote the interests of hunters, a narrow sectional interest, and that it was established without input from the broader community.
Mr Wilkinson stated, 'In the last few days of 2011, while most Victorians were on holiday, the Baillieu government announced a new agency, Game Victoria, within the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to deliver on an election promise to "give Victoria's hunting community a stronger voice and better enable the promotion and growth of the game sector'". That promise had been kept well below the radar in metro electorates.'
Mr Wilkinson further criticised the manner in which the new regulations were framed. 'The hunting regulations were due to expire last year, but a 12-month extension kept them alive until Game Victoria was ready to give hunters their voice. Fourteen hunting organisations were consulted earlier this year in developing the proposed new regulations. The process of public consultation is almost finished, except most of the public don't know they are being consulted, or what the consultation is about.'
Wilkinson then detailed the difficulties he believes were put in the way of any genuine community consultation. 'There are 98 pages in the public discussion paper, too many for the average person or community-funded organisation to examine and analyse during the four-week consultation period. DPI did not issue any press release about the public consultation process, and the public consultation process is not easy to find on its website.'
Wilkinson concludes, 'It's hard to escape the conclusion Game Victoria is keeping its deliberations as far from public scrutiny as possible.'