South Australian friends are leaving Victoria with a "bad taste" in their mouths after the tyres on their white Honda HR-V were slashed while they visited a regional town. The pair's reason for travelling to Lake Boort was not for a regular holiday and they suspect this could be the reason for the attack.
Bec (58) and Geoff (69) had parked in a clearing on the side of the road on Friday morning. They pulled out their cameras and walked past a shooting camp around 600 metres up the road, before spending around 90 minutes taking photos around the lake.
It was only when they started driving that Bec realised something was wrong. "The tyres were skidding and at first I thought the dirt was more slippery than I'd thought," she told Yahoo News Australia during a pitstop on her way home on Saturday.
Had she hopped in the car earlier before the air pressure drop became noticeable, Bec fears the vandalism could have caused them injury. "Lucky we didn't get very far, but it could have been quite dangerous if we'd gone further. We could have had a total blowout or an accident," she said.
While it's well known that there is rivalry between Victoria and South Australia, Bec doesn't believe that is what drove the vandalism. Instead, she and Geoff think it's because they were taking photographs around the lake, but instead of normal holiday snaps, they were there to document a very specific, controversial event.
Why were Bec and Geoff at the remote lake?
While the area is usually full of holidaymakers, this week dozens of shooters have flocked to Lake Boort and other regional waterways to take part in Victoria's annual duck season.
While the state hunting authority Game Management Victoria (GMA) monitors lakes for shooter compliance, they are unable to attend to all lakes at all times.
In response, small groups of animal advocates travel around the state to bear witness and take footage to ensure ducks are killed quickly and within regulations. That's the reason Bec and Geoff travelled to Victoria from South Australia.
While many shooters follow regulations set by GMA, there are a significant number of breaches and the government acknowledges there are "concerns regarding the rates of wounding of ducks" and "poor behaviour by some hunters". The RSPCA estimates between six and 40 per cent of all birds shot are wounded rather than killed outright. With 262,567 shot in 2022 that means between 15,700 and 105,000 likely suffered before they died.
Footage shot by Bec and Geoff and shared with Yahoo appears to show a hunter on a Victorian lake using a "windmilling" to kill a duck — a technique "not recommended" by GMA because "it can cause unnecessary pain and suffering". It involves killing a wounded bird by swinging it in circles by the neck. It is not alleged that this individual is connected with the attack on Bec and Geoff's car.
Will duck season continue in Victoria?
While some shooters kill for sport, there are many who take part in the activity to gather wild meat. In 2019, one hunter told Yahoo the welfare of the wild birds was higher than intensively farmed livestock, making it his preference.
But with waterfowl numbers showing long-term declines, and pressure from the public and within the Labor Party to shut duck season down, it's possible the 2023 season could be the last. This would mean only South Australia and Tasmania will continue the tradition — the practice was outlawed decades ago in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia.
The state government has established a Legislative Council Select Committee that will hold public hearings in order to examine all views about native bird hunting across the state.
Who slashed Bec and Geoff's tyres?
What is certain is that tensions often sizzle during duck season between shooters and animal welfare advocates. Both sides of the debate have accused the other of aggravating behaviour, and GMA has guidelines in order to try and keep the two groups apart to avoid injury.
While Bec will never know for certain who slashed her tyres, she suspects it was done in retaliation for their filming around the lake. This is not something Yahoo has been able to substantiate.
She was thankful a carload of GMA researchers were driving by and stayed with them until help arrived. "There was nobody else in the area, and we were in this little wooded area next to a lake, without a vehicle to quickly escape. Without them stopping I certainly would have had a safety concern," she said.
Bec says she's unsure if she wants to return to regional Victoria any time soon. "Somebody has done this with a knife," Bec said. "This violent slashing of our tyres has left a pretty bad taste in our mouth about visiting regional towns, which is really sad because most people have been lovely."
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