Heartbreaking moment 82-year-old forced to carry out 'distressing' ritual

Duck shooters have descended on Victoria's lakes, but Laurie Levy is determined to carry on his fight to ban them.

WARNING – DISTRESSING IMAGES: It’s a ritual that 82-year-old Laurie Levy hoped he wouldn’t have to perform again. But this week, the veteran activist returned to Parliament House and completed the solemn task of laying out the bodies of native ducks killed during Victoria’s controversial shooting season.

A new photo shows Levy cradling in his weathered hands the body of a dead waterbird that had been collected from the state’s wetlands after shooting season opened last week. He later placed it next to the bodies of illegally shot protected and threatened species. Some were killed outright, others suffered after being mortally wounded by shooters, prior to being humanely euthanised by wildlife vets.

“You go out there. And you have to witness the brutality, and the cruelty, and the violence that duck shooters inflict on the beautiful native waterbirds,” he told Yahoo News. “It’s very difficult for rescuers, it’s highly distressing, but they’re out there because they have empathy.”

Close up of Laurie Levy from the Coalition Against Duck Shooting holding the body of a dead waterbird. Several protesters can be seen in the background.
Laurie Levy from the Coalition Against Duck Shooting holds the body of a dead waterbird at his annual Parliament House protest. Source: Doug Gimesy

Despite his age, Laurie is determined to continue to play a central role in getting duck shooting banned. While he's now surrounded by younger activists, he likens himself to an experienced AFL footballer who can no longer run around the ground, but has a strong understanding of the sport.

"You can put an ageing footballer into the forward pocket where they can still take take high marks and and kick goals that win the game," the avid St Kilda supporter said.

Moment hopes of duck hunting ban dashed

In 2023, Laurie had been hopeful duck shooting would be banned after the Andrews Labor Government commissioned an inquiry into the annual season – due to growing welfare and environmental concerns as well as dwindling public approval. Other states including Queensland and NSW have already outlawed the practice.

Yahoo News last year reported several allegations that protected waterbirds had been killed. Several of these reports were included as evidence in a submission by Wildlife Victoria to the 2023 inquiry.

The inquiry suggested banning duck season, and animal welfare groups rejoiced. But Victoria’s unions led by the Electrical Trades Union threatened industrial action, and internally the Labor Party was understood to be split on the issue.

When Jacinta Allan took over the leadership from Andrews in September, she reportedly made a “captain’s call” and chose to ignore the findings of her government’s inquiry and instead allow duck season to continue with new restrictions.

Levy leading the ban duck shooting protest. Several protesters stand behind him. Dead ducks are laid out in front of them.
While shooter numbers have dwindled, Levy has helped build a movement of duck season opponents. Source: Doug Gimesy

Why Levy believes he will eventually see duck hunting banned

The 50-year-old premier was still a child when Levy first took to the wetlands in 1986. Back then thousands of shooters camped around Victoria’s wetlands and on the opening day of the season, the sound of gun blasts was deafening as the sky reigned down with shot.

The original purpose of his parliament house protest was to bring the carnage from the bush to the politicians in Melbourne. And although he carries on this tradition, he doesn’t think it will change Premier Allan's mind about the issue.

“She knows exactly what’s going on. We’ve had many discussions over the years” he said. “She’s a supporter of duck shooting, she’ll always be a supporter of duck shooting.”

Close up of a dead duck being held by a GMA employee at the protest.
Authorities removed the ducks from outside Parliament House after the protest. Source: Doug Gimesy

Levy is the founder of Coalition Against Duck Shooting which actively protests at shooting sites. His supporters are often joined by members of the Animal Justice Party as well as volunteers and vets from Wildlife Victoria who treat injured birds.

Since Levy began advocating for the ban, active shooter numbers have dwindled to only half a per cent of Victorians, and an estimated 87 per cent of the population supports a ban. Levy predicts the cabinet will ultimately make a decision in line with public opinion to override the new premier.

Government responds to duck hunting concerns

Allan did not respond to direct questions from Yahoo News about her ongoing support of duck season. Instead a statement was issued from a Victorian government spokesperson.

“Duck hunting is a legitimate activity, and it matters to thousands of Victorians who love the great outdoors – but more than that, it supports regional communities and economies,” it said.

"Our position has not changed and we’re supporting recreational duck and quail hunting to continue in a safe, sustainable and responsible way, with minimal harm to our environment."

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