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Why hunting is not ‘green’

HuntingHunters are escalating their rhetoric to transform a perception of blood-lusters to ‘conservationists’. But their actions are anything but ‘green’, writes Lynda Stoner.

In a bid to make killing more palatable, hunters are taking out advertisements in print newspapers in Australia. Included in their ads are images of introduced species being the devil-incarnate in the Garden of Eden with hunters as crusading warrior saviours of native animals and habitat.  

The pro-hunting lobby is increasingly using women in their marketing to make their “sport” more gender and family friendly and most recently have targeted the queer media, with the Sydney Star Observer carrying an ad by the Game Council of NSW, which encouraged readers to shoot pigs, goats, cats, rabbits in the name of saving the natural environment.

The propagation of hunter as model citizen whose sole motive is the greater good of the nation includes spurious justifications : “reconnecting with traditional ways dating back 15,000 years ago” and “sadness mixed with joy at a kill” – sadness apparently being for the death of an animal with the flipside being the joy of causing its death. They also cite “taking responsibility” for what they eat.

If hunters truly wish to revert to life as it was 15,000 years ago they need to emulate Paleolithic in all things. Homo habilis used stone tools, lived in caves and roamed barefoot with little in the way of clothing in all weather – they did not dress up like wannabe commandos, drive vehicles and use riflescopes.  

No-one outside of their community really believes this spuriousness.  Homo habilis diet was more Gatherer than Hunter and the meat they consumed was often stone scrapings from what was left of animals taken down by carnivorous animals.  

The truth behind duck hunting

Duck hunting is used as a means of harvesting meat. Duck hunters eat what they harvest.”  

Being part of an ever increasing group of duck rescuers at Lake Cowal over four years I witnessed first hand the “honourable” duck hunter during the now-banned New South Wales duck Season. 

Shooting would begin while still dark and hunters, unable to recognise any species of bird, blasted away at anything flying. 

Coupled with the terribleness of this massive slaughter was the bizarre and surreal visual of hunters in combat fatigues blowing on their duck whistles, surrounded by “decoy” plastic ducks and driving their “Deliverance” amphibious vehicles. 

Obviously hunters must regard ducks and other target animals as ferocious opponents hence the need for war zone regalia. Or perhaps they just enjoy dressing up.

We found endless bags of bodies of ducks weighted down so authorities could not penalise shooters for killing over their limit.  Their “harvest” in just three days included every species of protected native bird including pelicans and even a cow.

Harvesting your own meat

Whether you choose to harvest your own animals for meat, or have others kill and package an animal for you on foam trays, you’re still part of a process where an animal dies.

This argument is probably the strongest that hunters have – on the face of it. In our society we are as far removed from the reality of the suffering caused by meat and dairy products as could be. 

This is intentional of-course on the part of producers and a society that would rather keep its collective head in the sand than face responsibility for their part in the mutilation and horrific suffering of animals used for meat and clothing. 

Factory farms and abattoirs are kept as far away from consumers as possible.  Anyone who eats meat (by the way, fish are not vegetables, they suffer as much as any other sentient) or wears leather and fur is directly responsible for the suffering and death of the animals they consume and wear.  The onus for their misery is on each of us. 

Hence hunters are now using this contention to justify their killing.  But the fact is we have come a long, long way from our Stone-Age forebears. We are fortunate to live in a country with an abundance of healthy food that doesn’t require the death of any species for sustenance.

The correlation between the consumption of meat to various cancers, bone disease and heart disease is so widely known as to be a mystery why humans would eat the flesh of another species.  I have also seen all too often the carnage caused by hunters and the corpses they leave behind to see merit in their virtuous “being responsible for what they eat.”

Hunters as ‘conservationists’

And now hunters are “conservationists.” Empirical evidence has shown that recreational hunting does not limit numbers of introduced animals.  Hunters, in the main, prefer killing male animals as the “trophy” is more impressive. 

Animals are often deliberately released by hunters into parks to guarantee future prey (this is known as ‘seeding’); this has included buffalo, deer and antelope being freed onto two properties at Cape York Penninsula and more than half the deer in Australia being illegally translocated.

If you take out some numbers of a population they will compensate for losses by breeding earlier or in some way using compensatory reproduction. 

Nature abhors a vacuum – by artificially lowering populations this will result in higher reproduction and a lower mortality rate.  It also disperses surviving animals over greater distances. 

It has been reported that some hunters cut the ears off pigs before releasing into parks so they are more difficult to catch with dogs to “heighten” the “sport.” 

When bodies like National Parks Association of NSW. and the Invasive Species Council call on the government to not permit “sporting” shooters access to fragile National parks can anyone take seriously the hunting fraternity’s claims of being conservationists?

If it flies it dies….if you can hunt it I’ll do it” – Robert Borsak, Chair of the NSW Game Council – as he squatted by the corpse of an elephant…another species in his long line of butchery.

Hunting causes suffering, stress, terror, shock and pain.  It is intrinsically unethical and morally bankrupt to kill for pleasure – however you embellish your motives.

For over 200 years Europeans have been shooting, poisoning and trapping the very animals they introduced.  Ill-conceived and knee-jerk responses have massively impacted on those target animals and on native animals.

For large numbers of introduced species sterilisation would appear to be a universally acceptable “solution.” One the cross section of community would be comfortable with. After all, we sterilise companion animals to stop over breeding, why not other animals whose numbers are high and who might starve once they’ve eaten out their habitat?   

First and foremost, it is human beings who introduced most of these species. It is humans whose semantics switch from one day to the next to determine which species are charismatic and defendable and which are “noxious,” “invasive,” “feral” and “pests.” 

We revere kangaroos on the one hand and slaughter them in the largest animal kill in the world.  Rabbits are cuddly companions or bred up in battery boxes for meat - or we kill them in a variety of ways: shooting, Myxomatosis, 1080, Pindone, spread of Rabbit Calicivrus Disease, Trapping, Fumigation and the use of explosives in warrens.  

Cats are either companions or Lucifer.  Some Indigenous people in Australia say the cat arrived before Europeans, has its own dreaming and is part of Australia’s environment. 

Not infrequently demonising descriptors become a sanction for sadism – for what else is using golf sticks on cane toads, pouring petrol on them and setting them alight, putting fire crackers in them to make them explode, pouring salt in them to dehydrate them, nailing them to trees which can take up to four days to kill them, pouring Dettol or other solvent on them – these actions are sadism posturing as environmentalism. 

Killing is big business 

There is now a big business in the killing of “feral” animals and under the guise of conservation there are massive grants available to “feral” animal killers.  

If you claim to be attempting to save anything native (not kangaroos) you will probably receive a grant.  You don’t even have to monitor how many native animals you’ve purportedly saved.  And if you were unsuccessful in ridding an area of said-feral then you will probably receive another grant to go about repoisoning. 

You don’t want to be too successful though or that lucrative business will dry up. Koalas seem to be the only animal considered enough of a revenue earner alive to be excluded from killing.  It appears their “teddy bear” appeal risks incurring overseas disgust if we profit from their deaths…although Australia did almost manage to wipe them out until American President Herbert Hoover placed a ban on their skins in the 1930s. 

But for even our universally beloved Koalas the situation is vexed.  For example, Koalas were reported to be eating out their habitat on Kangaroo Island.  

Shooting was the SA Government’s first reaction which resulted in anger here and overseas.  The result of that bad PR was some koalas were tranquilized, sterilised and relocated to the mainland – however many animals cannot withstand being translocated to a completely foreign area, those who do may impact on established populations and disease caused by stress may manifest – this is sometimes known as “the soft cull.” 

Veterinarians often not versed in wild animal surgery have botched surgeries and koalas have died slow and painful deaths as a consequence.  Between 1997 and 2005, the Government paid for the sterilisation of 3,400 koalas and relocated a further 1,000.   

Each sterilisation costs around $140.  The remaining koalas continued to breed.  It appears the government may have come to the conclusion that the only people winning from this exercise were the environmental scientists who continued to ask for more and more research money for the koala “problem.”  

In one paper it was suggested that a cheaper option would have been to put aluminium guards around endangered trees to top koalas climbing them as is used as guards to keep possums out of trees.  

Environmental Scientist David Paton of Adelaide University is quoted as saying, “You are going to cause major problems for other species – other species that are endemic to the island. Those things have a right, a greater right, to be here than koalas.” 

One might think koalas have an even greater right to exist on this small island than sheep and dairy farmers. So, with the exception of koalas - on any given day – depending which State or Territory you live in - “noxious” animals may include:  buffalo, donkeys, pigs, horses, cane toads, cats, unbranded cattle, dingo and “feral” dogs, rabbits, camels, Indian Myna birds, ducks, kangaroos, flying foxes and goats.  Any animal we don’t have “control” over:  Trap them, shoot them, poison them or sterilise them. 

Sterilisation issues 

On the face of it this may appear the way forward.  But in whose interest?  I do not believe that sterilisation of “feral” animals is humane or in the best interest of individual animals.  

Dr. Tyndale-Biscoe of the CSIRO VIC noted how methods of fertility control for wildlife suffer from 2 defects:  “They interfere with the animal’s normal endocrine function and social behaviour and the agents need to be individually delivered in baits or by darting.”  

He and his team then intended working on a new method for rabbits and foxes that would block fertilisation without interfering with hormone function and could be introduced to a population at minimum cost.  

How many animals has his research alone already used? For decades now, hundreds and thousands of animals have been experimented on by scientists looking for economical and convenient ways to sterilise horses, goats, rabbits, foxes,  kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and quokkas - to name but a few.  

This research entails capturing the animals thus causing them fear and stress and often doing invasive procedures; sometimes releasing the animals and then rounding them up again for further research.  

Some contraception programs use darting and other projectiles; others use large-scale capture; others suggest long-term efficacy and others may involve submitting the animal repeatedly to contraception procedures.  

Sterilisation programs will impact on  genetic variations within a population; there may be those whose natural behaviour is impacted on.  A genetically modified strain of the myxoma virus was developed which works as an immunocontraceptive virus acting as a sterilising agent on female rabbits – were this to be released into the wild there is the chance it may affect non target animals and be inadvertently transported to other countries. 

Sterility vaccines trialed on wild pigs were determined to pose risks to human health due to the close similarity of human and pig physiology, also it was feared it would threaten commercial piggeries. Once again human beings are traumatising and manipulating animals with no real understanding of the long-term consequences. 

We sterilise dogs and cats as a means of keeping their numbers down, to minimise the quarter of a million animals killed by shelters each year. We advocate desex and return of colony cats because it is the most humane and effective way of keeping cat numbers down. 

Companion animals who are desexed will receive veterinary care that I cannot imagine would be afforded to those species known as “ferals.” 

Problems of aerial shooting 

Aerial shooting, a favourite of National Parks and Wildlife, causes terrible suffering to those target species including panic caused by the noise of helicopters and subsequent fleeing – animals including non target species will run into fences and other obstacles, animals that are injured will run to escape into areas including water where it may not be possible to locate them, condemning them to a slow death.  

Currently in NSW there is a ban on shooting brumbies from helicopters….the question must be asked, why can’t the ban be extended to all species? 

The media has reflected public outcry at the aerial shooting of brumbies, for instance on Frazier Downs in Western Australia last year, over a two-day period, 672 horses were riddled with bullets and foals left orphaned, dying of stress or starvation.  

In Broome last year the RSPCA called again for a ban on the shooting of “feral” animals from helicopters due to the number of horses left injured and not killed. 

Over 6000 horses were slaughtered by helicopters in Carnarvon Gorge, Northern Queensland. Autopsies showed four bullets were used to kill each horse, ages range from foals and yearlings to young adults. 

Wild camels are routinely shot from helicopters in remote areas of Australia and along with the location is the unlikelihood of witnesses as  to which animals are killed outright and which left dying of injuries. Aerial shooting is arbitrary and cruel which is why it is banned in Russia and why it must be banned here. 

Humans caused the problem in the first place 

For too long humans have interfered with natural selection. Is the answer to just leave animals be? Let their survival or otherwise take its natural course?  

Even the CSIRO has suggested that mice populations will naturally crash – they do also say that mice baits are cheap so you “may as well bait them anyway.”  Lemmings are another species that have rapid population and sudden demise of numbers.  

Some animals refrain from mating when their environment is minimal - this could be caused by stress or pheromones. Kangaroos will contain their second baby during drought conditions until plentiful food is available and good milk can be produced.  

It is the manufacture of meat, dairy and leather that is causing the most pollution and damage to the atmosphere, soil and waterways and to the habitat of native animals.  The sprawl of human habitat and the destruction caused by animal producers is overwhelmingly causing the demise of our planet…NOT other animal species.  We need to work toward habitat reclamation, reforestation and living as much in harmony with the environment as possible.  

Species do die out, over and over again throughout the world. Other life forms take their place and find their balance.  It is regrettable and the loss of any species is to be mourned.  But it is our species that is causing their demise because of our voracious appetite for animal products, cars, plastics and more excessive lifestyles.  What so-called “feral” animals do by contrast is a mere blip. 

Humane solutions 

Cost effective exclusion fencing is one way of maintaining crops and is being used successfully by wine growers and other vegetable producers.  

Netting is also successfully used for grape and some fruit crops.  Grain can be sown deeply in areas where mice plagues are common.  On Blue Gum plantations in Western Australia, Ring-neck Parrots were destroying seedling trees. 

Various options were undertaken including repellents, shooting and decoy crops but it was pruning and thinning to reduce the effects of damage that proved most successful. 

It has been shown that wild horses can be repelled by the use of sound and in particular whip cracking and dogs barking and the smell of dingo urine and faeces and tiger faeces (synthetic versions currently being worked on).

The humane response to animals competing for food is very often the most effective.  

Lynda Stoner is the communications manager for Animal Liberation NSW.






0 #1 Alex Melonas 2010-04-20 17:42
This article was so full of information. It’s very good.

I might add that the defense premised on "harvesting your own meat" ("meat" is a euphemism for body parts, of course) is that it begs the relevant moral question: How do you justify using the animals in the first place? Once that stops being assumed, and we push in that direction, the discourse must change.

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