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Happy (?) World Animal Day.

There have been few happy stories in the media today regarding animal welfare, an issue of importance to 98% of Victorians (Labor Government's Animal Welfare Action Plan 2017).

The decline in biodiversity in our country - indeed our state - brings tears to the eyes.

We can't let World Animal Day conclude without making mention of the plight of our precious native waterbirds, many species unique to our country.

In recreational native waterbird shooting, typically around 400,000 birds are shot each season in Victoria alone (GMA harvest statistics).

Sadly, this figure does not include the birds shot which are left behind and found later by the public, nor the birds wounded, fluttering away to die slow painful deaths over days or weeks (or worse left to suffer with long term injuries).

In terms of "sustainability", it's not just the hundreds of thousands of birds shot who are impacted. Sadly, there is a ripple effect through the populations. Studies show that birds feel fear, pain and sorrow, much like humans do and that many bird species are monogamous. When one of a pair is shot, often the surviving partner may never recover let alone re-partner. Often the healthy birds of breeding age are shot, further decimating the chances of population recovery.

But it gets worse.

This is also a story of extreme cruelty, unacceptable in a modern society.

The nature of shotgun pellet dispersal means a high wound rate is unavoidable, even by the best shooters.

"You'd think it would be easy to kill a flying duck with a shotgun. After all, many loads contain 150 to 175 pellets that, upon reaching the bird are spread out in a swarm 3 to 5 feet in diameter and 6 to 8 feet long. How can anyone not hit the target with that much metal in the air? Yet too often we do, either missing entirely or even worse, wounding and then never recovering the duck" (Montana Outdoors Sept 2013).

A world leading ballistics expert and leading authority on shotgun ammunition efficiency, submits a whopping 25% of birds shot will not be killed outright.

A study by Szymanski and Afton (USA 2005) reported approximately one third of ducks are injured but escape capture.

RSPCA Australia say for every bird killed, another is injured.

But spare a thought for the 6 Game Bird "Farms" in Victoria, where birds are bred in captivity only to be released when shooters are ready and waiting to shoot them. For the birds who manage to escape this, life in the wild is totally foreign to them and they will almost certianly succumb to starvation and predation.

Is this a modern ethical society?

Picture Australian Wood Duck - Native to Australia, Form life-long pairs, photo courtesy Eleanor Dilley.

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