FGA is at war!
Be in no doubt, the forces we are now facing in the fight to protect duck hunting are more determined, clever and well resourced, than we have ever faced before, and we are fighting back.
The days when we would have Laurie Levy walk into the water and then emerge for the cameras, puffing and panting and saying that “duck hunting must stop” and then we all went about our business; are over.
Animals Australia has taken over the push to stop our hunting, and these are the people who nearly destroyed the Australian live beef trade. They are very well funded and as we have seen, are willing to use the courts to push the Government to close wetlands to hunting.
They have obviously realised that an outright ban on duck hunting in Victoria is not going to happen and have opted to reduce the number of places available for hunting. They are doing this by direct court action rather than going via the Game Management Authority. The basis of their claiming that a wetland must be closed is whether there are “rare and protected” duck species on it. In the case of Lake Elizabeth at Kerang, the presence of between 80 and 150 (depending on who did the count and when) Blue-billed ducks were enough to have it closed late in the afternoon of the day before Opening. Hunters camped there were given two hours to pack up and leave. Now, there were 5000 – 10 000 birds on Lake Elizabeth, all hunters have passed the WIT and Blue-billed ducks have very distinctive habits which make them easy to identify, so why the panicked closure? Was it simply the Ministers' reaction to being faced with a Supreme Court action?
The fact is that ducks go where the water is and in a year when wetlands have dried out, you are going to get non-game species at the few good wetlands available for hunting. It was for this reason that the AA badge was given out for those who scored highly in the WIT, the idea being that you would have to have an AA badge to hunt on a wetland with high numbers of non-game ducks. This has not been adopted and we are now facing a situation where fewer and fewer non-game species will cause a wetland closure.
It is worth noting that due to the conservation efforts of hunters over many years, we are now seeing more “rare” species of duck, particularly Freckled duck. It is ironic, and very galling that these increased numbers of some species of duck are now being used to close wetlands which were bought by hunter's licence fees to preserve ducks and duck hunting!
The antis are well funded, they just have to put up a photo of a wild tiger and say ‘adopt this tiger by sending $15 to us', and money floods in!
They play the emotive card constantly; most of their anti-duck hunting ads featured cute little ducklings. Never mind that the very reason our season starts in late March is to ensure that the breeding season is well and truly over and there are no ducklings! Photos of ducklings bring donations.
How are we fighting back? We must fight fire with fire and become equally able to get our message out and to harness funding. We have commenced an extensive (and expensive) media campaign, which seeks to improve the image of hunters and make the public aware of the conservation work we do to ensure our hunting is sustainable. This started at the commencement of the season with ads
on rural television and is continuing with radio ads, billboards and newspapers. We also need to establish funds to launch our own court action where necessary or to have lawyers contest court actions launched by the anti's.
We do not have the reserves to cover this full media campaign, but the Board took the view that we could not protect our balance sheet at the risk of losing duck hunting! We look to you the hunter to help us to fund this action. Go to our website and you will see how to donate to the fight. Do it now and do it as often as you can!
Be in no doubt, Animals Australia, the RSPCA and their like take on these fights a battle at a time and then move onto the next target. If they succeed in strangling duck hunting until there are too few hunters for the government to worry about them, then they will move onto deer, pest animals, fishing… This is the first battle and we either step up to the plate to defend our right to hunt, ethically and sustainably; or we go under. FGA will never roll over on any issue which puts our future ability to hunt ducks at risk.
Plenty of birds at Johnson Swamp but is it protection or politics that has kept hunters from accessing the game reserve