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Is recreational hunting an effective and humane form of pest animal management in National Parks?
Recreational hunting causes inevitable pain and suffering to animals and is not an effective form of pest management. In the limited circumstances where shooting is carried out as part of a pest animal management program, professional marksmen have been shown to be more effective than recreational hunters.
For example, in the Gum Lagoon Conservation Park in South Australia, 65 recreational hunters over 4 days were only able to kill 44 deer, while one professional marksman in a helicopter was able to kill 182 deer in 4 hours. In Tasmania, an investigation into wallaby shooting methods found that in two nights of shooting, a single professional marksman achieved the same level of population reduction as four recreational shooters were able to achieve in a year.
Professional marksmen are also proficient at shooting animals humanely. During a cull of 856 wild impala in the Mkuzi Game Reserve, South Africa by a marksman, 93% of animals were killed with only one shot (to the head) and 6% were wounded and then killed. The average survival time for wounded animals was 30 seconds. No animals escaped wounded. The animals were hunted at night with the aid of a spotlight to reduce animal stress prior to shooting and to ensure a high proportion of animals were killed instantaneously. In this example, the level of instantaneous unconsciousness quickly followed by death is comparable to what is achieved in commercial abattoirs (>94 % stunned instantly).
Undoubtedly some recreational hunters are highly skilled at shooting, but there are many who are not. In New Zealand, 5% of recreational hunters account for more than half of all deer shot for sport, leaving the majority of hunters with limited experience of shooting animals. The picture is similar in Australia. Even more disturbing is that junior hunting licences are given to children as young as 11 years’ old. It is very doubtful that children of this age would have the skills, knowledge and motivation to kill animals in a humane and efficient manner. Also, there is no requirement for hunters to demonstrate shooting competency as a condition of licensing. Given that one of the main factors influencing animal welfare is operator skill, a shooter skills test should be mandatory. Of greater concern is the fact that there have been no independent audits of wounding rates of animals shot by recreational hunters. Until such studies are done recreational hunters cannot make claims regarding the humaneness of their hunting.
The RSPCA is opposed to recreational hunting, or the act of stalking or pursuing an animal and then killing it for sport, due to the inherent and inevitable pain and suffering caused.
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