1080 works, but there's no arguing with anti-1080 activists - expert

  • 13/09/2018

From death threats to vowing to shoot down helicopters, the anti-1080 movement is ever-evolving - and, at times, viciously vocal.

Despite a consensus from New Zealand's science community and experts in the field saying 1080 is our best solution, those lobbying for the poison to be banned are now pleading for change. From eco-activists, to hunters, to farmers, some activists have reported losing precious livestock and now regret not opposing 1080 earlier.

With so much noise from the Ban 1080 camp, it's easy to think the country is evenly divided on the issue. But the verdict is already in for scientists, who say 1080 is vital to preserving New Zealand's biodiversity, and without it, our native birds don't stand a fighting chance.

Environmental experts say 25 million native birds' eggs are eaten by rats, stoats and possums every year, threatening to replace our birdsong with silence. The Department of Conservation (DoC) insists if 1080 didn't work, they wouldn't use it. But that hasn't stopped the Ban 1080 movement from gathering momentum.

One Facebook group has grown by 10,000 followers in just a month, while online comment sections show a mobilising army, with the hashtag #BAN1080 cropping up below countless articles and livestreams, whether they're 1080-related or not.

Dave Hansford, a 1080 expert and author, says we should all keep in mind that we're poisoning animals which is never a pleasant business.

He told The Project that 1080 lands right in the middle of the country's poison welfare score.

"While I would never call any poison humane, it's important to remember that we are thinking about welfare and there are a great many other poisons worse than 1080."

When asked about the often-repeated claim that 1080 kills birds and other non-target species, Mr Hansford was skeptical.

"Somebody's going to have to start producing some evidence for that," he said.

"I myself have gone into forests after three separate 1080 drops and I have combed the forest looking for dead birds. I haven't found any, and I know of a great many other people who have done the same kind of thing."

He says he understands people's fears about 1080, because the idea of dropping large quantities of poison "affronts all our primal instincts".

"We didn't survive this long without being extremely wary of poison. We have to understand people's visceral reaction when they see those helicopters."

Mr Hansford thinks it's been a bad year for the anti-1080 movement, who feel let down by the Labour-Greens-NZ First coalition who thought they would finally get some traction.

He says that no matter how hard he and other pro-1080 people try, there's just no arguing with those who have made up their minds on the issue.

"There's been some fascinating research done in the United States showing that not only are people unwilling to change their minds, but if you hold up contradictory evidence in front of them, they simply hang on to those beliefs ever more tightly."