A shock announcement by NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell will see it become open season on feral animals in 79 of the state’s national parks following a decision to allow access to recreational hunters. Amendments to the Game and Feral Animal Control Act 2002 will enable licensed shooters to hunt introduced ‘pest’ animals including pigs, dogs, cats and goats.
The RSPCA is opposed to recreational hunting because of the cruelty involved and believes allowing hunters into our national parks will be detrimental, not only to animal welfare, but to the ongoing management of pest animals and to the safety of individuals who access these treasured havens that are home to our native wildlife.
Best practice control of pest animals such as wild dogs, pigs and goats requires a coordinated and planned approach. This involves neighbouring landholders developing a long-term control strategy, using the most effective, target-specific control methods suitable for the situation, and working together to maximise the potential for success. To be effective, control programs need to focus on reducing the impacts of pest animals rather than simply killing the most easily found animals. The ad-hoc nature of recreational hunting where animals are targeted according to the whims and satisfaction of the hunter will do nothing to assist in this endeavour.
In addition, while current pest management programs in National Parks are carried out by trained professionals that have both the knowledge and incentive to ensure their practices are implemented humanly, there will be no such supervision of hunters. Allowing individual recreational shooters to hunt freely without supervision means there is no way to guarantee that they are meeting humane standards including those of the Game Council NSW Code of Practice.
The National Park network in Australia provides critically important habitat for our native plants and animals in perpetuity. National Parks and State Conservation Areas are extremely popular places where the public can experience outdoor pursuits and encounter native wildlife in an undisturbed setting. While the RSPCA recognises that there is a need to ensure that the impacts of pest animals are minimised, opening national parks up to hunters will jeopardise the safety and enjoyment of these places for the rest of the public.
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