Animal Aid

ANIMAL AID'S STATEMENT ON THE GOVERNMENT'S ANNOUNCEMENT THAT IT PLANS TO KILL THE REMAINING POPULATION OF RUDDY DUCKS

Posted 1 March 2003
Ruddy duck

Ruddy ducks are to be killed because some of them are allegedly mating with the white headed duck in Spain and producing a 'genetically impure' hybrid. Those who run reactionary conservation bodies such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds are not only deeply offended by the idea of genetic impurity, such 'hybridisation' makes it more difficult for them to compile the lists of birds seen through their binoculars. It is they who have pressed the government into this attempted genetic cleansing of nature.

In a trial cull that ended in May last year and accounted for 2,651 ruddy ducks, 50 per cent of landowners who were approached refused to allow the killing gangs on to their land. The government is now considering passing a law to gain compulsory access. This is grotesque, obscene and absurd, and all very reminiscent of the foot and mouth fiasco.

The ruddy and white headed ducks are close genetic kin - which is why they are able to produce healthy offspring. Furthermore, white headed ducks have been brought to the point of extinction because they have been mercilessly hunted in Spain and their habitat destroyed. Mating with the robust ruddy duck is the white headed duck's means of survival. We should leave them to it and not compound our near-destruction of one species with the destruction of another.

According to the environment ministry's own data, previous trial 'culls' resulted in a sizeable proportion of ruddy ducks dying in protracted agony. Many were shot on their nests. Conservation should be about protecting habitat, not killing animals in the name of blood purity.

We urge the public to withdraw all support for the RSPB and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust until the two bodies change their position and urge the government to do so.

Andrew Tyler
Director, Animal Aid

Notes to Editors

  • For more information call Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.

  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast-quality interviews.

  • In May 2002, a government-commissioned three-year 'trial cull' of ruddy ducks came to an end. The trial cull, which started in April 1999 was centred in the West Midlands, Anglesey and Fife and the purpose of it was to test the feasibility of eradicating the entire UK ruddy duck population.

  • The government were urged to proceed with the three-year slaughter programme by the RSPB and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, on the grounds that some of the birds - an American import - were flying to Spain to mate with endangered white-headed ducks who had been hunted to near extinction. This resulted in an 'impure' hybrid, which wouldn't be tolerated by top table conservation groups.

  • In July 2002, the Central Science Laboratory in York submitted a report to DEFRA detailing the findings of the three-year trial. It revealed that 2,651 ruddys were slaughtered, leaving a surviving population of over 3,000 ducks. Conspicuously, there was no mention given of the large scale suffering that would have been endured by thousands of birds. This simply was not taken into account despite assurances by DEFRA that the welfare of the birds would be a consideration.

  • In an earlier rehearsal for the slaughter, a sizeable percentage of ruddy ducks took hours to die, with some having to be shot numerous times. Others were injured and never retrieved.

  • Around 50% of landowners refused ministry-appointed gunmen access to their land on which ducks were resident and so DEFRA indicated that they would invoke draconian measures to gain compulsory access.

  • The original objective of the cull was to assess the feasibility of total eradication. Three years later, however, it was claimed that the original intention was to assess the feasibility of achieving a 95% reduction. Animal Aid questioned whether this was already an admission of failure.

  • There have been no previous avian eradication schemes in the UK or on mainland Europe. The ruddy duck programme could, therefore, serve as a pilot study for future attempts to eradicate non-native bird species.

  • The total cost of an eradication programme is estimated to run into millions of pounds of taxpayers money. Ruddy ducks dive and disperse when shot at and are located on as many as 1,000 sites. To gain access to land a special licence would have to be sought.

  • See also the Ruddy Duck campaign index.

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