- SELECT COMMITTEE TABLES REPORT -
SPRING BRINGS HOPE TO VICTORIANS
"Take your spent cartridges with you and don't come back!" - Magpie youngsters
Victorians Have Been Heard
Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting inc (RVOTDS) welcomes the result of the largest Parliamentary Inquiry in Victoria’s history (10,000+ submissions), that is, to end recreational native bird hunting on all Victorian public and private land from 2024.
It’s not surprising to see that more submissions supported a ban than did not (as per Katherine Copsey’s comment p.227 of the Inquiry Report).
Don't miss the public sentiment published in recent media: a selection of letters included at the end of this newsletter!
However, the committee’s rationale for recommending the ban was not just public opinion but based on science and fact. One factor is a loss of public amenity: less than half of one percent of the population choose to use firearms to shoot birds, but this activity is permitted on 3.5 million hectares, a seventh of Victoria’s total land area! Another is considerable evidence of long-term declines in native bird populations with a worsening climate outlook. A key issue is animal welfare, the reason duck and quail shooting was banned in other states long before sustainability became a mainstream concern. The cruelty is unlikely to be sufficiently addressed even if the regulator’s wounding reduction action plan (WRAP) were adopted.
Broken Birds – Wounding May Be Higher than We Think
While a wound (non-kill) rate of 6-40% is commonly associated with bird shooting, RVOTDS’s supplementary submission to the Inquiry (p.8) showed it could be even higher, more like 83%, that is 8.3 birds wounded for every 10 birds bagged, based on Game Management Authority’s (GMA) own data and calculation of the “crippling ratio” described in section 5 of the WRAP. If this seems far-fetched, it's not. Studies in Denmark show their wound rates were 1:1!
Wounding rates are not just an issue in duck shooting. RSPCA estimates 57,000 native quail are left wounded (not killed) each recreational quail shooting season.
Left: juvenile native Stubble Quail
RVOTDS agrees with the majority of the Inquiry Report’s recommendations and findings. However, we note there may be significant issues associated with a possible exemption for Traditional Owners to be able to continue to shoot native birds. Many believe such an exemption may be divisive and poses significant challenges in monitoring and enforcement.
See what SkyNewshad to say.
What Traditional Owners have to say:
On September 1, The Herald Sun reported the words of Gary Murray, Victorian Traditional Owner Land Justice Group executive:
“no person – regardless of their heritage – should be able to hunt ducks.”
Mr Rod Carter, CEO of Dja Dja Warrung, and Traditional Elder Ian Hunter also expressed opposition to having different rules for Traditional Owners versus everyone else.
A dozen Indigenous groups signed our last Alliance letter to Ministers, seeking a ban on native bird shooting.
Progressive & Prudent
All up, less than half of those licensed to hunt birds actually take part in the bird shooting. In 2022, only 11,282 of 23,098 duck licence holders, shot ducks despite an unusually long season (p.17 of GMA’s 2022 duck season report.) And the recently released GMA licence statistics report 2023 (p.20-21) shows the number of duck licences continues to fall, now only 22,043 (June 2023), lower than in 1996 despite our huge population growth. Less than a tenth of licensed quail shooters actually go out to shoot quail. Shooters are voting with their feet.
Victoria’s population is over 6.7 MILLION with over 1.6 million living in the regions, all with a right to peace, safety and the enjoyment of more popular and inclusive forms of outdoor recreation all year round. (98% of bird shooters are male - GMA data).
Studies show most remaining bird hunters would switch to an alternate recreation if bird hunting were banned. Banning native bird hunting will inconvenience few, but it will benefit many. A ban will open up new opportunities for our regions: wildlife sanctuaries, birdwatching meccas, Indigenous sustainable floating art exhibitions...opportunities are endless. The Premier and colleagues would make Victoria proud, having their photos taken at the openings of what could be world-leading projects.
Rural Victorians are thankful to have been heard. The impacts of bird shooting on our mental health, livelihoods, and everyday lives, featured throughout the Inquiry's Report.
We urge the government to:
Make a quick decision to ban native bird hunting. Delays only bring anguish to all involved.
Re-direct taxpayer funds that subsidise hunting, into our health system, our roads, and to environmental groups and landowners currently spending significant amounts of their own money in conservation work which does not involve putting lead or plastic shotgun components into our environments.
*RVOTDS Supplementary Submission (p.6-7) shows some of the eye-watering sums of taxpayer funds supporting hunting. And p.9 shows millions of plastic shotgun components are deposited into our environment each year just by duck shooters (not even counting those deposited by quail shooters) according to a GMA board paper obtained under Freedom of Information.
Bird Shooting Economically Shot The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) figure quoted in the Inquiry Report of just $2.7m net impact to all Victoria from duck shooting, does not consider costs to taxpayers of supporting native bird shooting, such as helicopter bird counts, law enforcement, compliance monitoring, lost tourism, lost productivity as people can’t work from home and shift workers can’t sleep, grants to hunt clubs and damage to farms. The PBO also included the caveat that their work relied on data from the 2019 taxpayer-funded hunter survey, and would reflect any flaws in that survey report. The most obvious flaw is that the data relied entirely on hunters’ memories as opposed to evidence (and a possible desire to exaggerate their expenditure to promote their cause). It is likely the economic impact of bird shooting is negative, and mostly felt by the regions. Further, we note the $2.7m appears based on licence revenue from all types of hunting, as opposed to just duck and quail licensing.
Health and Wealth from Birdwatching as a Substitution Tourism Research Australia data shows that the spend of domestic overnight tourists who birdwatched in our country in 2022 was $635million, an increase of 50% in three years. (Not even counting additional revenue from international tourists or domestic day tourists who birdwatched.) Birdwatching is known to be more than just an economic driver, bringing tremendous mental health benefits as reported in Time Magazine and Neuroscience News. Studies show hearing birdsong can help ease anxiety and a study from King’s College London reveals that being around birds can provide an immediate mental boost that can last for eight hours. Perhaps a few of the vocal Victorian unionists should put away their shotguns and try this.
Global Trends The decline in hunting and rise in birdwatching is a global phenomenon. The US Fish and Wildlife Tourist Surveys show a marked decrease in hunting and an increase in wildlife watching between 2011 and 2016. Most of these wildlife watchers were birdwatchers. (To our knowledge the 2016 survey is the latest published USFW survey).
Above: table showing the popularity and spending of hunting has declined, while that of wildlife watching has substantially increased.
Birdwatching has not only taken over tik-tok, but is forming a big part of tourism campaigns such as the recent promotion in Luxury Travel Magazine and the “Find Your Flock” package offered at participating US and Singapore VOCO hotels.
In the News
And a few of your letters:
For our beautiful birds who cannot speak for themselves, and the communities who love being home to them, thank you for your support.