WARNING — DISTRESSING CONTENT: Authorities are investigating a video showing “alleged animal cruelty” which was reportedly filmed on the opening day of Victoria’s duck season on May 26.
The footage appears to show a gun-dog running across Lake Lonsdale, near the Grampians National Park, to retrieve an injured duck.
With the bird in its mouth, the dog races back to a hunter who is wearing heavy boots and a camouflaged outfit held up by a belt filled with shotgun shells.
Wildlife Victoria vet Dr Natasha Bassett told Yahoo News Australia that what follows appears to show the hunter “failing to dispatch (the duck) with an appropriate method”.
The hunter can be seen forcefully pushing the bird – which is clearly still alive – against a tree, and one minute into the video, he allows the dog to repeatedly lunge towards the struggling creature.
The dog’s face is momentarily hidden from view, but when she recoils, she spits out a mouth full of feathers.
Dr Bassett said it is important to note that birds have the same nervous systems and sensory perception as mammals.
“In keeping the bird alive, deliberately, (the hunter is) greatly prolonging the suffering of that bird,” Dr Bassett said.
“So not only do we have the pain and shock, that’s setting in from the injuries which brought the bird down to the water, we have an immense amount of psychological terror.”
Concern hunter may be 'blooding' dog
Describing the hunter’s conduct as “absolutely atrocious”, the Animal Justice Party’s Andy Meddick said the man “needs to be locked up”.
Ninety seconds into the video the duck can still be seen kicking and it is unclear if the duck is still alive when the hunter places his foot on it.
Mr Meddick said the hunter appears to be “blooding” the dog.
“He takes (the duck) off the dog, and then he teases it, as though he wants the dog to get the scent — he’s training it or something,” he told Yahoo News Australia.
“There's no difference in what I've seen on this video than what we've had in the greyhound industry with the blooding of greyhounds, where they've been allowed to attack live animals like possums and cats."
Independent hunting regulator Game Management Authority said they have received the footage and its CEO Graeme Ford confirmed they are investigating.
“Hunters who break the law may face significant fines and penalties, be prosecuted, have their equipment confiscated and lose their Game and Firearms Licences,” he said.
End in sight for duck season says veteran campaigner
Sources within Victoria’s Labor party have indicated there is a growing appetite to see Victoria’s annual duck season ended, or at the very least see policy reformed within the party.
It is understood some are privately frustrated that shooters have been allowed to continue hunting, despite heavy restrictions to other activities during the state’s coronavirus lockdown.
Labor’s Steve McGhie confirmed he remains “against duck shooting” and that he will “continue to raise these concerns” with his parliamentary colleagues.
The state’s peak wildlife rescue group Wildlife Victoria has also questioned the government’s decision to allow the hunt to continue.
The charity’s CEO Lisa Palma told Yahoo News Australia said every time there is a lockdown, people spend more time connecting to nature and this leads to an increase in rescues.
“With a big spike in calls that have come through since the last lockdown we'd certainly want to avoid unnecessarily being called to rescue sick and injured waterbirds as a result of deliberate human activity,” she said.
Laurie Levy, 79, from the Coalition Against Duck Shooting said after 35 years of campaigning he is confident he will see an end to duck shooting within his lifetime.
While he remains frustrated that successive governments, along with the GMA have failed to prosecute serious breaches of duck shooting regulations, he believes the Labor government will end the annual hunt as it forms the state's animal welfare act.
“The duck season is all about violence and cruelty. The moment a shooter pulls the trigger cruelty happens,” he said.
“Labor’s new sentience plan recognises animals feel fear, pain, suffering and happiness and I think because of that duck shooting will go in Victoria, like it already has in three other states.”
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