OPINION: Amateur hunting hopelessly ineffective

By David Shoebridge, Greens Member of the Legislative Council

In his defence of the blood-sport of amateur hunting Mr Mallard claims campaigns against amateur hunting fail to address effective control measures for introduced species.

Unfortunately for the pro-hunting lobby, the evidence is clear that amateur hunting is in fact hopelessly ineffective at controlling introduced species.

The government-funded “Game Council” received more than $15million of government funding to lobby for amateur hunting and license more than 20,000 amateur hunters to hunt in the two million hectares of state forests the government approved for hunting.

The data produced by the Game Council to show its “success” was an annual tally of animals that its licensed amateur hunters had killed.

The figures from 2009 to 2013 are as follows:

These figures show that, on average, a licensed amateur hunter in NSW killed just one introduced animal a year, and most often that was a rabbit.

None of the hunting carried out by amateur hunters in NSW is coordinated or incorporated into a pest management plan, but is instead determined by the ad hoc preferences of amateur hunters.

Amateur hunters kill hundreds, or in some cases a few thousand, introduced animals from populations that are in the millions.

The evidence is that Australia has about seven million foxes, 18 million cats, three million goats, millions of rabbits and between four and 24 million introduced pigs.

Introduced animals have such large populations primarily because they have extremely high reproduction rates with a large “doomed surplus” each year.

This means most young do not survive to adulthood, but those that do breed at such high rates they fully replace last season’s population.

Killing small numbers of a given population will therefore have no effect, as other animals, which would otherwise have died from the range of natural causes, then fill this niche.

The proportion of a population that needs to be removed to achieve an overall reduction in population from one year to the next is as follows:

When you look at just one species, such as cats, the inevitable failure of amateur hunting is easily demonstrated.

To effectively control the population, 57 per cent would need to be removed to have fewer cats in an area the next year.

The Game Council’s own figures show that the combined effort of amateur hunters in 2013 removed a total of 290 wild cats from millions of hectares of public forest, from a population estimated in the millions.

Amateur hunting took only a tiny fraction of feral cats from the already “doomed surplus”.

Their removal has made not one jot of difference to the wild cat population anywhere in NSW.

The same analysis can be applied to every species of animal killed by Game Council-licensed hunters.

Apart from small areas of land that are subject to intensive, scientific and professional animal control programs, over the rest of the country introduced animals are controlled by their environment.

Competition for food, for habitat and natural predation keeps their numbers in check, not hunters.

Putting to one side the almost inevitable cruelty of amateur hunting practices such as pig-dogging and bow hunting, the evidence backs up our call for an immediate end to state-sanctioned and taxpayer-subsidised amateur hunting in our public forests.