VICTORIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, Tasmania and the Northern Territory each have a recreational shooting season. The result is the cruel death of hundreds of thousands of Australian waterbirds each year. Much of this killing occurs on Ramsar sites. The killing does not stop there.
“In New South Wales, which does not have a recreational shooting season for waterbirds, an estimated 49,750 ducks were shot during the 2016–17 rice growing period”
The killing of native waterbirds in New South Wales occurs on private land and shooters from other states also travel to New South Wales to participate in this activity. This blog describes the species and the numbers of birds shot as authorized by the New South Wales Government issued Native Game Bird Management licences in 2016–17.
There are around 1,500 farm businesses growing rice in the Murrumbidgee Valley and Murray Valley. The industry has relied heavily on chemical pesticides when ducks could have been part of the pest control solution. There are also rice farms on the Victorian side of the border.
“Numbers are building up”
— NSW DPI to Peter Hylands August 2018
The shooting of Australia’s birdlife on rice fields in the Murray Darling system and associated rivers takes place during the breeding season. The welfare of young birds is not a consideration. Birds are not silly animals, the majority of birds shot during the start of the recreational duck shooting season are juvenile birds and in their first year of life, if they survive the first year then they are the wiser. It is here that waterbirds in one of the most extensive river systems in the world, the Murray Darling, have now declined by more than 75 percent in the last three decades.
“What it means for duck hunters who venture to the state of NSW is for an opportunity to participate in the most fast and frantic waterfowling available in this country”
- Australian (Shelduck Tadorna tadornoides) 146
- Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata) 9,412
- Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa) 11,700
- Australasian (Shoveler Anas rhynchotis) 65
- Chestnut Teal (Anas castanea) 54
- Grey Teal (Anas gracilis) 25,028
- Hardhead (Aythya Australis) 1,121
- Pink Eared Duck (Malacorhynchus membranaceus) 882
- Plumed Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna eytoni) 1,342
There have been no prosecutions in New South Wales regarding illegal conduct and cruelty and the New South Wales Government is not investigating non-lethal methods of control.
“Shooting on the NSW rice fields has always been seen by Victorian duck shooters as being just another recreational shoot, disguised as crop mitigation. They see it as their second opening for the year. I despair at the large number of wounded birds that would suffer a lonely and long death out of view of anyone.”
— Laurie Levy
The New South Wales Government claim that less than five percent of the total numbers of owner/occupier licenses are to control native ‘game’ ducks not killed on rice fields.
“One duck and a thousand treasures”
The quote above is from Japanese duck rice farmer Takao Furuno talking about the Aigamo duck-rice culture.
Yet another slaughter of native waterbirds begins in the Australian state of New South Wales in October. The droughts are very severe and this means that where there is water, concentrations of birdlife are likely to be high. The New South Wales Government is running the following ad on its DPI website. Events are being held around Melbourne and in Sydney.
“NSW landholders who grow rice need the help of hunters again this year to protect crops vulnerable to damage from native game ducks. If you are interested in being a part of the NSW Native Game Bird Management Program, the NSW DPI Game Licensing Unit’s Wildlife Management Team are hosting informal information nights, where you’ll find out…”
In 1986, when the campaign to stop the mass slaughter of waterbirds began in Victoria, shooting in the New South Wales rice fields was considered by most Victorian duck shooters as a recreational shoot and their second opening in October. The idea remains.
“Rice farm owners and/or managers would apply for destruction permits to shoot waterbirds so that their mates could come up for a recreational shoot”
However, there are many rice farmers in New South Wales who do not shoot native waterbirds. Research by the CSIRO going back to the 1930s concludes that native duck species are not a problem as they take only a small amount of rice but that they help to keep the real pests down, such as blood worms, invertebrates and snails etc. In fact Asian rice farmers take domestic ducks onto their rice fields to keep the real pests down.
It is some sort of improvement that the New South Wales Government department responsible for the shooting (DPI) is now trying to manage shooting on the rice fields, once again this is a killing culture with the department promoting these shooting activities, and most of the shooting is still done for recreational purposes.
There are many terrible and cruel stories from these killing fields involving individual birds. Here is just one of tens of thousands of these things. This case of cruelty, which is ‘illegal’, from the state of Victoria and from 2011. There is no law, anything goes.
A Black Swan sits on her nest, shooting all around her. Hunters spot the gracious and beautiful swan and decide to use its nesting site as a platform to shoot from. They kick the swans eggs into the water, now shattered and broken, young bodies mixed with yoke. As the mother tries to defend her nest she is filled with shot at point blank range.
Like the thousands of birds around her our brave mother dies in agony. Here is the X-ray of her broken body. Her broken family lays around her.
WORDS AND IMAGERY: Peter Hylands at creativecowboyfilms