By Christine Rose
OPINION: New Zealanders will relish the opportunity to leave lockdown and our tightly constrained bubbles. For many, that means going to the beach to swim or surf while the weather's still good. But public safety is still a concern for the Government, so restrictions on how far we go from home, and what we do, still apply.
That's why it seems inexplicable that hunting and shooting is among the priorities agreed suitable for level 3 activities. On average, around 1000 people a year are injured in hunting accidents, sometimes requiring search and rescue operations and hospitalisation of affected people. Allowing people to hunt and shoot - when we've collectively surrendered our freedoms to avoid overloading the public health system - seems reckless.
The season has been delayed and extended, treating COVID-19 as a 'disruption' not a threat, so that shooters can operate for the usual period. As well as the potential harm to humans, there are other concerns that make the decision to allow hunting on private property in level 3, and on the Conservation estate, in level 2, indefensible.
It's expected that around 1 million birds will be shot during duck hunting season this year. Some animals will fail to be 'cleanly killed', meaning they are wounded but not killed outright, and instead suffer a lingering, painful death.
Even though duck shooting is banned in many Australian states, here, the list of animals that can be legally killed for sport includes birds such as the black swan, the Australasian shoveler, grey ducks, mallard, paradise shelducks, partridges, pheasants, pukeko and quail.
Other birds can be killed accidentally as hunters fail to correctly identify their targets.
Often children accompany adults in hunts, which encultures them to violent mistreatment and disregard for animals - a practice in New Zealand that has raised concern around the world. Duck shooting and hunting are practices that are bad for birds, the environment, and society.
Sometimes duck shooting is defended because it allows harvesting of wild animals for food. Fish and Game Council chief representatives say, "game bird hunting is a national tradition", it's "harvesting free-range poultry from nature's supermarket".
Unless there is a genuine and substantiated need for food, this argument is unconvincing. Most of us have ready access to food in the supermarket and don't depend on cruel, wasteful and indiscriminate wild harvest.
It seems bizarre that as citizens around the world celebrate the conspicuous return of wildlife to human spaces, here in New Zealand, we are eager to hunt and shoot wild animals, and this has the approval of the Government.
We've just spent a month in lockdown to save lives, but now we're allowed to take animals' lives largely for sport. Hunting sentient animals is no fair sport for ducks, pukekos and the range of other animals in the firing line. It's time to end duck shooting for good.
Christine Rose is the campaign advisor for World Animal Protection New Zealand.