Tag Archives: Australia

Duck massacre in Australia

The slaughter embarrassed even the most hard-headed of hunters. More than 800 abandoned duck carcasses that shooters did not bother to pick up. At least 150 endangered ducks killed, many among Australia‘s rarest. And other dead birds – hawk-like whistling kites and black swans – that look nothing like ducks.

”It’s terrible. It’s absolutely disgraceful,” said one of the state’s leading duck-hunting advocates, Rod Drew, about the March shootings at the Box Flat private wetland near Boort, in the state’s north-west.

‘The public, including everyone in Game Victoria, is disgusted by what happened and we don’t condone it in any way. Any suggestion that we, myself included, failed to do our job, I totally refute that’.

But a Fairfax Media investigation can reveal that the shooting spree – the likes of which Victorian authorities have not seen since the early 1990s – could have been prevented. Days before the incident, government officials were tipped off by a concerned hunter with a warning.

Rescuers from the Coalition Against Duck Shooting with a dead freckled duck   at Box Flat wetland a week after the March cull.Rescuers from the Coalition Against Duck Shooting with a dead freckled duck at Box Flat wetland a week after the March cull.

This hunter, acting as an informant, told a Department of Sustainability and Environment official that Box Flat should be watched on the duck season opening weekend. Only a year before, in an incident never reported, trigger-happy shooters had gone to the remote wetland and shot birds indiscriminately.

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The shooters had ”shot the shit out of the joint, shot everything that moved”, the informant told the department. There was talk, the hunter added, that it would happen again.

But Game Victoria, the government body in charge of the duck season, said that while the tipoff was judged to have ”something in it”, the authority prioritised potential protester activity on the Saturday morning at nearby Woolshed Swamp. But compliance officers found no protesters there.

By the time they got to Box Flat, the hunters – between 50 and 150 – had been shooting for more than an hour. A landowner, who is furious about the incident but declined to be named, said this was when most of the damage had been done.

The compliance officers and police did no shoreline inspections on the Saturday. It was only when they visited on Sunday morning that they found the first of 147 dead freckled ducks, a rare species protected by Victorian law. The official tally, released to Fairfax Media by Game Victoria, included 561 pink-eared ducks and 136 grey teal ducks that hunters can legally shoot but illegally left behind.

Game Victoria director Simon Toop said the final tally could be higher and did not include the birds hunters took with them.

The government’s failure to act on its tipoff raises questions about the oversight of Victoria’s duck hunting season following the Coalition’s pro-hunting reform.

This season, for the first time, the Department of Primary Industries and Game Victoria were fully in charge of hunter and protester compliance. In past years the more wildlife-friendly Department of Sustainability and Environment was the top agency.

Game Victoria, a new body set up by Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh, now calls the shots on what compliance officers should be doing. It is, say senior government sources, staffed with public servants who themselves hunt and have connections with hunting lobby groups Field and Game Victoria and the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia. These sources say the Box Flat incident showed Game Victoria was more interested in policing protesters than hunters.

Mr Toop said Game Victoria’s decision to go first to Woolshed Swamp was because his priority was human life. With scarce resources, Mr Toop said he had to focus on wetlands where protesters might be. ”When [protesters] start going in there and confronting hunters it is just a dangerous mix …” Mr Toop rejected a call from veteran anti-duck hunting campaigner Laurie Levy that he be sacked over the Box Flat incident.

”The public, including everyone in Game Victoria, is disgusted by what happened and we don’t condone it in any way. Any suggestion that we, myself included, failed to do our job, I totally refute that.”

The incident was uncomfortable for Mr Walsh because it occurred in his backyard: within his electorate and on land of men whom he once played football and went to school with. But the minister said he was ”furious” about the shooting. He shut down the wetland for hunting and said the individuals responsible should face the ”maximum penalties”.

Mr Walsh rejected any suggestion that the Box Flat incident was a result of his government’s pro-hunting reforms. He said the people in charge of compliance were the same people from the Department of Sustainability and Environment who had run the season before. Game Victoria’s actions after the tipoff were ”an operational matter”, he said.

The Box Flat investigation, headed by Game Victoria with the help of the Boort police and police detectives, is focusing on at least seven persons of interest. But shooters and landowners spoken to by Fairfax Media are not expecting the investigation to catch the culprits.

They said the shooters, many of whom left the site on the Saturday, were unlikely to dob each other in and it would be difficult to prove which hunter shot an endangered bird. One landowner said he would not identify anyone because he did not want ”guys with guns” turning up on his property.

Locals are keen to point the finger towards Melbourne. ”I don’t think they were local, no,” said landowner and local councillor Neil Beattie. But investigation information seen by Fairfax Media show suspects are mostly local and many from Bendigo. A Bendigo man was interviewed at Box Flat for exceeding his bag limit.

Landowner Grant Weaver said he could not recall any problems at Box Flat during last year’s season. ”There may have been people here last year that may have caused trouble but as far as I know there wasn’t anything that untoward done.”

In last week’s budget, Mr Walsh announced $8 million for a new Game Management Authority whose board will be at arm’s length from the department. Mr Walsh said the new authority would provide better services to hunters and encourage growth in regional hunting businesses.

Field and Game Australia‘s Rod Drew said protesters should be investigated over the incident. He said it could be more than just a coincidence that the slaughter happened on the year that duck protesters had been sitting for firearm and game licence tests. He said the protesters could have shot the ducks ”to bring the shooters into disrepute”.

Greens MP Sue Pennicuik called on the government to explain how it allowed the shooting to happen. ”The fact that the government was officially warned about this incident makes a mockery of the minister’s consistent claims that this activity is highly regulated and the regulations are enforced.”

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/environment/animals/hunter-warned-of-bird-massacre-20130512-2jg5r.html#ixzz2TBFPD4kP

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Hens Deserve Better

In Australia, the RSPCA continue to fight for an end to the cruel and immoral battery farming methods of old.  You can see more about their work here.

Caged hens live in a space the size of an A4 envelope.  That’s the equivalent of your living in a space the size of a portaloo.

Could You Live Like This?

Chicken in cage size of A4 paper, woman in portaloo

Did you know that by purchasing cage-free eggs instead of cage eggs, you're giving hens a better quality of life.

Make a difference, make the right decision, look out for the rspca logo on egg cartons

Want to make a hen Happy? Make a difference by completing tasks on the Take Action list and adding your own. Share what you’ve done with your friends and inspire them to help hens too

What’s with the wattle?

A bird‘s wattle, like its comb, can help to dissipate heat. The thin, elastic protuberances that hang down from a turkey’s lower jaw allow for the rapid transfer of energy across the skin. Birds don’t have any sweat glands, and most of their bodies are covered with a thick and well-insulating coat of feathers. When it gets really hot out, blood flow increases to those parts of their bodies that are exposed to the air, like the wattle, the comb (a growth at the top of the head), the snood (flaps of skin hanging over the bill), and the feet. Birds can also cool off by expelling water vapor. That is to say, they pant like dogs.

Wattles may be cool, but they’re also manly. Male turkeys and chickens have larger and brighter wattles than females, and the size of the protuberance varies with testosterone levels. This gender dimorphism is strikingly displayed among those unusual chickens (about 1 in 10,000) that develop as male on one side of their bodies and female on the other: The masculine half of the wattle hangs much lower. Environmental factors can also affect wattle size. A male bird, for example, might experience wattle shrinkage after losing status in his social group.

Initial research on chickens, turkeys, and their ilk found that hens strongly prefer a male with a big and colorful comb but don’t seem so turned on by the size or floppiness of his wattle. That doesn’t mean the latter is irrelevant to sex: Male birds of some species engage in a wattle-shaking courtship dance called “tidbitting.” This includes three distinct head movements—the “twitch,” the “long bob,” and the “short bob”—along with the emission of various noises and the repeated picking up and dropping of a morsel of food. Although hens are drawn to these displays on their own terms, wattles seem to make the dance even more attractive.

In 2009, a team of scientists in Australia demonstrated this fact by presenting two dozen Sebright hens with a series of computer-animated videos. In some cases, a virtual male was shown tidbitting with a normal wattle; in others, the wattle was either absent, rigid, or extra-floppy. Then the researchers measured the female response to this turkey porn. (There are some video clips at the bottom of this write-up.) It turned out that the hens were more interested in the rigid and normal wattles, which seemed to make the whole tidbitting routine more conspicuous. According to the researchers, these protuberances served to enhance “signal efficacy” for the courtship dance, in the way mascara might enhance some flirty eye contact.

In any case, a wattle isn’t always a good thing for a bird. Chickens kept in cold weather are most susceptible to frostbite in their wattles and combs. That’s why some farmers engage in a practice called “dubbing“: They slice off the bird’s head appendages with a pair of sharp scissors.

Source: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2010/11/can_somebody_explain_to_me_what_the_whole_wattle_things_about.html

One man’s chicken litter is another mans gold

When you have tens of thousands of chickens in a poultry shed, you inevitably get a lot of chicken poo.  A group of northern Victorian chicken farmers are turning that manure into the latest energy innovation, biochar.  To complete the conversion process they have a pyrolysis plant, with a chamber that heats the biomass to more than 500 degrees Celsius, turning it into biochar, a type of charcoal.  But it’s not just any charcoal – it’s a charcoal with a high nutrient value.  Biochar locks carbon away in the soil, saving greenhouse gas emissions.  But is also is a slowrelease fertiliser.

Biochar Energy Systems managing director Russell Burnett invented the pyrolysis plant turning poultry litter into biochar in Bendigo.  A commercial size plant will take in 200 to 500 kilograms of poultry litter per hour.  “The end product is biochar principally, which contains 50 per cent of the carbon that was in the original biomass,” Mr Burnett says, “the majority of that carbon is a fixed carbon so it will stay in the soil for hundreds if not thousands of years.”  Mr Burnett says biochar made from poultry litter contains all the nutrients from the chicken poo.  He says in each tonne of biochar there’s $300 worth of nutrients, highlighting its value as a fertiliser.  To put this in context the group of poultry processors and growers that make up the Northern Poultry Cluster, together produce 50,000 to 60,000 tonnes of poultry litter a year.

Northern Poultry Cluster general manager Wayne Street says they’ve got a lot riding on the pyrolysis plant.  Mr Street says the plant offers a way of turning a waste product into a revenue stream.  But he says beyond that it could help reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint.  “We believe that this is an important step for the future of farming in Australia.  We’re conscious of the fact that the carbon generated by the agricultural sector is significant.  Any steps to reduce that carbon should be acknowledged.”  Mr Street says they want to see a Federal Government acknowledgement that biochar locks up carbon that would otherwise create greenhouse gases.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/rural/content/2010/s2828816.htm

Also see: http://www.biochar-international.org/biochar