Influence claim refuted

By Country News

The Game Management Authority has hit back at claims it might influence investigations into alleged animal cruelty because some in the organisation are duck shooters.

Following the close of the 2019 duck hunting season on May 19, the Coalition Against Duck Shooting suggested the authority might influence the RSPCA to not prosecute duck shooters for cruelty as one of its directors and three board members are duck shooters.

‘‘The GMA has no influence over the activities of the RSPCA. GMA board directors, while setting strategic direction for the authority, play no role in the operational delivery of day-to-day enforcement activities,’’ a GMA spokesperson said.

The authority confirmed it had received video footage from Animals Australia allegedly showing animal cruelty offences and said it would use an expert panel, including representatives from other government agencies, to review the footage and assess whether further action was warranted, including investigation which may lead to prosecution.

However, campaign director Laurie Levy said he was not aware of a single duck shooter that had ever been prosecuted for animal cruelty.

‘‘Our investigative and enforcement teams patrolled wetlands every weekend of the 2019 duck shooting season. But unlike the early years in the late 1980s, when thousands of duck shooters routinely took to Victoria’s wetlands, we only encountered a handful of shooters again this year,’’ he said.

‘‘The 2019 duck shooting season was the quietest on record. It started with a whimper and finished the same way.

‘‘Cruelty offences by duck shooters were still documented, but the low numbers of shooters meant that a substantial number of birds taking refuge on Victoria’s wetlands remained safe.’’

A GMA spokesperson said duck hunters and protesters generally obeyed the regulations, but there were some exceptions.

‘‘For the remainder of the season, data is still being collated and analysed on hunter compliance, hunter effort and harvest levels. Some compliance matters are still being assessed and others are under investigation. These matters will be finalised in due course.’’

The start of this year’s season saw hunter numbers fall by a third to 1300.