Duck hunters have been given the green light to keep shooting birds in South Australia, despite claims it is inhumane, threatens endangered species and goes against community expectations.
The RSPCA has slammed a report by a South Australian parliamentary committee into the hunting of native birds, tabled on Thursday.
Its findings "fail animal welfare, fail conservation and fail to meet our community’s expectations for the protection of vulnerable wildlife,” RSPCA SA animal welfare advocate Rebekah Eyers said.
“We estimate up to 10,000 of the approximately 45,000 ducks shot in SA each year will be wounded and left to suffer,” she said.
“Seeing a hunter swing a wounded duck around by the neck and then dump it on a pile of shot ducks whilst still alive is a horror that I will never forget.”
The latest Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey found several native bird species were experiencing significant long-term decline, despite recent wetter La Nina conditions.
Dr Eyers said there was no justification for allowing the continued hunting of species whose populations are already under pressure.
The report recommended a series of measures to limit the impacts of hunting on the environment, including requiring hunters to wear visible tags, increasing penalties for bad actors and banning the use of lead shot.
But Dr Eyers says assumptions authorities can effectively regulate the practice are misguided, after a recent Victorian inquiry found compliance monitoring a "near impossible task".
She also raised concerns that 99 per cent of South Australians are blocked from large swathes of public land during the three-and-a-half-month long open season and people who inadvertently stumble onto hunting grounds are in danger of being shot.
Labor MLC Ian Hunter and Greens environment spokesperson Tammy Franks were the only two committee members who argued the practice should be banned.
"Whether the lowest or highest estimate is accepted, hundreds, perhaps thousands of animals are shot, wounded, and not humanely killed every duck and quail hunting season," Mr Hunter wrote.
"I conclude that to support duck and quail hunting necessarily means supporting deliberate cruelty to animals which are wounded and left to suffer a slow and agonising death or crippled."
One Nation's Sarah Game also offered a dissenting opinion, but her gripe was that the report's recommendations were too onerous for hunters.
Ms Franks said the committee was "loaded" in favour of hunting from the start.
"South Australian Parliament is severely out of step with most of the community on this issue," she said.
"It’s time for Labor to bite the bullet, look at the science and act swiftly to ensure this barbaric cruelty does not continue."
In August, Victorian Parliament called for recreational duck hunting to be banned across all public and private land in the state from 2024.
SA Environment Minister Susan Close said the government is committed to balancing the best available ecological science with the social and cultural values of the community.
"Duck hunting is a challenging issue for many people in the community, and I acknowledge the concerns raised by those opposed to the practice," she said.