The bodies of dozens of waterbirds have been dumped outside Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews’ office this morning, in an annual protest against the state’s controversial duck season.
Veteran campaigner Laurie Levy hopes this year will be his last and that a state government inquiry will ban duck shooting in 2024. He spoke with Yahoo News Australia about why he has completed this annual ritual for the past 38 years.
“When we first started the campaign politicians refused to go to the wetlands to see the carnage they had sanctioned, so we took the carnage to them,” he said. “Out of sight out of mind doesn’t work.”
Mr Levy and his team begin by laying out a white sheet. They then covers it with rows of illegally shot threatened species, protected species, as well as game species that duck shooters left dead or dying in the water. Among the estimated 100 dead birds displayed this year were a number of species facing extinction — blue-winged shovelers, hardheads and a freckled duck.
How the anti-duck shooting movement began
Mr Levy now leads a successful animal advocacy group, the Coalition Against Duck Shooting, but when he started in 1986 vocal opponents of the season were few in numbers.
“Fifteen rescuers went out to challenge 100,000 duck shooters in Victoria,” he said. “How can so few people create a difference? We had a courageous rescue team who went out into the water to bring out wounded birds, and we also have had so much media coverage over the years. It's the media coverage that has changed public opinion.”
Today, active duck shooters are estimated to number just 8000 in Victoria. Mainstream animal welfare groups like the RSPCA are vocal opponents of the practice, and rescue group Wildlife Victoria estimates 87 per cent of the state opposes it.
Despite seeing massive changes during his time as an activist, Laurie Levy’s message has not changed. “Our message has always been the same,” he said. “The violence and the cruelty that duck shooters inflict on native waterbirds is totally unacceptable.”
Government duck shooting inquiry receives over 1700 submissions
Award-winning wildlife photographer Doug Gimesy was there to capture the event. Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, he said there were around 20 protesters and a crowd of onlookers at the protest, many of them appearing frustrated.
"They're fed up that this keeps happening when it appears the majority of Victorians want it to end," he said.
Animal Justice Party MP Georgie Purcell was among eight members of a parliamentary inquiry into duck shooting who converged on a game reserve near Geelong last Wednesday to observe the opening of the shorter five-week season.
The committee has already received 1700 submissions and is due to publish its final report by August 31.
The premier declined to pre-empt the committee's findings and encouraged anybody with knowledge of wrongdoing to report it to the GMA, which he said already had significant resources to enforce the rules.
"I'm confident that the Game Management Authority will act," he said.
Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania are the only states where duck shooting is permitted after Western Australia, NSW and Queensland banned the practice.
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