Nothing shows how crazy our relationship with animals is, than the first day of the duck hunting season.
For a start, what do you think of someone who gets their thrills out of shooting animals? What should we do – lock them up, or put a photo of them in the local paper?
SAFE will always be outspoken about the carnage of duck hunting, and this season, (opening 5 May), we will again be calling for an end to duck shooting. Research conducted overseas indicates that duck shooters fail to kill up to a third of the birds outright, merely injuring them. SAFE believes this means as many as 275,000 birds, including geese, swans and native ducks, may be left crippled or left to die a slow and agonising death.
On the other side of the fence, Fish and Game are actively trying to recruit more young people into the killing fields, as their members are getting older, and their ‘sport’ is declining. You have to ask, what kind of outdoor education is it to shove a gun in a kid’s hand and tell them to shoot native wildlife?
Shooting native birds
It’s crazy, but some native birds are legal game birds. The grey duck (pārera) is in the gun’s sights, it’s open season on the paradise shellduck (pūtangitangi), and the shoveler (kuruwhengu) is ‘fair game’.
We call some birds ‘pests’, and other pets, and others national icons. It all depends on your point of view. We breed non-native birds, such as pheasants, release them into the countryside and then shoot them. Canadian geese can now be shot (or clubbed) all year round without a permit.
Of course people with guns also break the law at times: for example, it has been recently reported that up north kereru are being hunted, despite their being endangered and the possibility of a $100,000 fine for the hunter if caught.
There’s no question hunting in New Zealand is somehow tied up with national identity. There’s a perception that it’s all about good keen mates heading into the bush and providing food for their families. However duck hunting is definitely for the ‘sport’ of it, and for most participants it’s just a ‘fun’ day out. I like the quote, “hunting is not a sport. In a sport, both sides should know they’re in the game” (Paul Rodriguez, Mexican comedian).
There’s a good article in the latest National Geographic describing how a whole range of exotic animals were introduced to New Zealand by local ‘acclimatisation societies’, groups of colonists importing new species to be ‘game’ to this country without large mammals. It’s a crazy story!
Some of my best friends would defend hunting as an ethical choice. For example my brother-in-law goes hunting, and stocks the freezer at home, instead of buying freeze-packed meat from the supermarket.
Sure it’s a great thing to aim to control where your food comes from, but then to bring yourself to kill an animal – what kind of karma is there in that? And why take a photo with the dead animal afterwards?
Eliot Pryor, SAFE Campaign director