Shorter duck hunting season scrutinised

One size doesn't fit all: Member for Gippsland South, Danny O'Brien has labelled the shortened duck hunting season as "an insult to the vast majority of law abiding hunters who do the right thing". File Photograph



THE state government’s decision to allow a truncated duck-hunting season has been strongly criticised by Gippsland politicians as ‘a slur’ and ‘disgraceful’, and by the RSPCA as ‘deeply disappointing’.

Given the contested views, the government has also acted to have the Legislative Council examine recreational native bird hunting in Victoria.

This year, the duck season will only run for five weeks with a four-bag limit and 8am start time and closing 30 minutes after sunset each day from Wednesday, April 26 to Tuesday May 30.

Jeff Bourman, Upper House MP of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party of Victoria, said the weak policy was a blow to recreational hunters, and was in opposition to the report commissioned by the government with government-appointed scientists, who recommended a daily four-bag limit and a full 12-week season.

“I’ve been in Parliament for over eight years now and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard the government tell us about their science-driven and evidence-based decision making,” he said.

“So, I’m interested to hear how they’ll justify this recent insult to the scientists who spent so much time working on a report for the government, which has been completely ignored.”

Mr Bourman said duck hunting was a contentious issue shrouded in lies, misinformation and very suspect polling pushed by animal rights activists, and used to try and sway decision-makers into making a decision that will please ideologues.

“The anti-duck hunters are unable to present evidence that cannot be eviscerated with an even cursory inspection. Yet people who happily eat farmed duck are brainwashed into thinking duck hunting is somehow cruel, yet farmed ducks being killed is not. It’s cognitive dissonance of epic proportions,” he said.

Mr Bourman said recreational duck hunting brings much needed income into regional and rural economies ravaged by end-on-end disasters and unfeeling government actions.

Mr Bourman concluded: “For so long during the pandemic we were told to ‘trust the science’ yet at the first hurdle where the government could show real leadership and trust their own science, in the face of a noisy, hostile, yet small group, they flubbed it.”

Upper House MP Melina Bath described the policy restrictions as a disgraceful slur on Gippsland’s law abiding recreational shooters.

“Duck season in Victoria is a highly regulated activity that injects millions into our local economy,” she said.

“Our local recreational hunters are passionate about positive environmental outcomes having spent countless hours transforming Heart Morass from a wasteland into an internationally recognised thriving wetland.

“Our recreation hunters are the true conservationists and the Andrews government painting them any other way is shameful. The Andrews government is shutting down recreational hunting by stealth.”

Ms Bath said the governments’ own research reported not one recreational hunter exceeded their bag limit during the 802 checks under the previous season.

“Asserting hunters are not doing complying with regulations is plain wrong. Labor’s decision… has everything to do with appeasing activists and securing needed support in the Upper House of state Parliament from the Animal Justice Party and Greens MPs to pass other legislation,” she said.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, said the decision was an insult to hunters and clearly more about politics than science.

Mr O’Brien said he was alarmed at the government’s language in making the announcement, which seems to indicate future plans to ban the practice altogether.

“The decision outlined on the Game Management Authority’s website refers to a ‘more precautionary approach’ and ‘poor behaviour by some hunters…’ among other matters.

“This is an insult to the vast majority of law-abiding hunters who do the right thing and sustainably harvest ducks every year,” he said.

RSPCA Victoria said the decision was deeply disappointing, and called for a review of the decision, given huge animal welfare concerns, declining waterbird abundance and lack of community support.

RSPCA Victoria chief executive, Dr Liz Walker, said the duck hunting season would cause injury, pain and suffering to thousands of native ducks, and further the decline of waterbird populations.

A 35-day hunting season would result in 87,000 birds being killed, and up to 35,000 wounded and left to die.

“Research indicates that two in three Victorians (66 per cent) oppose it,” she said.

“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.”

The government will move to establish a Legislative Council Select Committee to examine recreational native bird hunting in Victoria.

The committee will have wide-ranging terms of reference, including the operation of the annual recreational native bird hunting seasons, arrangements in other Australian jurisdictions, their environmental sustainability and impact on amenity, and their social and economic impact.

The committee will hold public hearings to hear from hunting associations, animal welfare groups, and regional communities.

A final report is expected to be tabled by August 31.