Harry Clarke On economics, politics & other things

May 13, 2013

Bob the Hunter: I want to kill, kill, kill,…….

Filed under: animal rights,conservation — hc @ 3:56 pm

A group of barbarian hunters went on a rampage over the last few days and wiped out close to 1000 birds in a Victorian wetland. They didn’t hunt for a feed but to gain pleasure from killing.  600 ducks killed were left where they were shot.  The killers also shot raptors, black swans and other avifauna.  It was obviously a joyful bloodbath by this bunch of brainless psychopaths.

Responsibility for enforcing controls on hunting in Victoria has shifted from the Department of Sustainability and Environment to the pro-killing Game Victoria and Department of Primary Industry.*  These groups were warned that a massacre was likely but took no action on the grounds of human resource shortages.

This is the same pro-killing government that seeks to open up our limited national parks to tourism development and to allow hunting of so-called ferals within parks.  How will the latter policy be restricted to non-native species if those doing the hunting have the brain-dead character of the above-mentioned loonies.

I liked this claim by a hunter representative cited in the first link:  “Field and Game Australia’s Rod Drew said protesters should be investigated over the incident. He said it could be more than just a coincidence that the slaughter happened on the year that duck protesters had been sitting for firearm and game licence tests. He said the protesters could have shot the ducks ”to bring the shooters into disrepute”. (My bold).

A more reasonable perspective is that the scumbag (so-called) hunters who went to this site got caught up in a bit of old-fashioned blood lust.  A bit of senseless killing turns boys into men!

Much was made about the fact that 147 endangered Freckled ducks** were among the species killed.  This type of reasoning is a form of anthropocentrism that sees losses to humans if certain species are put at risk.   I am equally concerned with the other 850 destroyed birds irrespective of their rarity.  I am also concerned that we continue as a society to see “hunting” (=killing defenseless animals) as a sport or a hobby rather than a mental disease.

*Pro-killing, yep I’ll stick with that. A quote from their website: “Victoria has some of the best game hunting opportunities in Australia. There are generous open seasons and bag limits for game deer, duck and quail and more than 8 million hectares of public land available for hunting. This site will help you make the most of these opportunities and ensure you hunt in a safe and lawful way.”

** Freckled ducks are a moderately rare duck species that often lives in the drier southern regions of Australia’s interior.  When these regions dry out they migrate to coastal areas – that seems to be happening at present with many sightings occurring along the eastern seaboard. They have even been seen around suburban Sydney and Melbourne.  The future of this species is mainly tied up with conservation of their limited habitat.

January 19, 2013

Native gardens & fire

Filed under: conservation,gardening — hc @ 10:10 am

A friend of mine told me that he recently cut out all of his native plants to reduce fire risks. He owns a country property in an area with high biodiversity value. His house and property were threatened by the bad bush-fires we had in Victoria recently.  The same sentiments are expressed in this Canberra Times article – keep natives out of your backyard! I don’t agree with these views for three reasons: (1) We have a responsibility to protect native plant and animal communities particularly in rural areas; (ii)  There are many fire-resistant native species and information about such species (for particular parts of Australia) is widely available; (iii) The layout and design of gardens is important as well as the plants you choose.

Planting natives in your garden is a water and fertilizer-friendly way of conserving local biodiversity and provides an ongoing source of natural beauty, colours and textures. Native gardens can be adapted even to a formal traditional style if that is your cup of tea.  But of course if you do have a native garden you need to be aware of fire risks by appropriately choosing fire-resistant species native to your area and by designing the garden and maintaining the exterior of your property appropriately.

It alarms me that people will use any excuse to avoid accepting their conservation responsibilities.  There is a type of environmental “realist” ethic that is widespread that says let’s be practical and accept that total devastation of the local environment is an inevitable consequence of living decently.  It isn’t and this view reflects intellectual laziness, diminished aesthetic values and, of course, contempt for our native flora and fauna.

January 8, 2013

Feral cat eradication as racism?

Filed under: animal rights,biodiversity,conservation — hc @ 6:59 pm

This is probably the silliest op-ed I have seen in many years.   At least on conservation issues. It argues that seeking to control feral cats is unnecessary since there is no evidence linking species extinctions to feral cat predation. It doubles up on the stupidity by arguing that the dislike of feral cats reflects a “common” value in our migrant-based Australian society of antipathy towards migrants. National extinctions are an environmental  disaster but avoiding extinctions should be a minimal type of conservation effort.  Of course we should be concerned about the dramatic reduction in range that many Australian species have experienced since white settlement.

As the author notes feral cats have caused extinctions on islands and this understanding can be used to understand how feral cats, together with foxes,  have caused a dramatic reduction in Australia’s fauna on the mainland.  Moreover there is specific and incontrovertible evidence that feral cats are implicated in the local extinctions of mainland species such as native rats. The reason feral cats are such a problem in Australia is that they have few natural predators and their numbers grow rapidly. Indeed one suggestion for controlling cats is to reintroduce dingos, quolls and Tasmanian  Devils as predators.   Australian native mammal populations are under severe threat with the range of such species having contracted dramatically. There are an estimated 1.5 million feral cats in Queensland alone so the scale of wildlife losses will be enormous.

Conservationists dislike feral cats not because they are analogous to migrants but because the Australian environment is valued.  The evidence this clown introduces for the view that dislike of feral cats reflects a form of racism is one foolish remark on “dewogging” by a National Party politician. Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence that such remarks – even if they were widely held – have had any impact on conservation policies.

The author teaches sociology at the University of Tasmania.  I hope his classes show a bit more respect for evidence and logic than this careless, stupid and utterly irresponsible op ed. Why write this rubbish and why should The Age publish it?

Update:  Illegal Immigrants as ferals? Yes, when they start eating us.

March 25, 2011

Whaling ended by tsunami?

Filed under: conservation — hc @ 12:39 pm

Possible end of Japanese whaling.

November 27, 2008

Resurrecting the mammoth & science fiction

Filed under: conservation — hc @ 9:42 am

$10 million to resurrect the mammoth? It is better to concentrate conservation resources in attempting to limit current species extinctions than to engage in resurrectionist science that has almost no chance of success.  There will not be a mammoth coming to a zoo near you soon. 

December 2, 2007

Macquarie Island again

Filed under: biodiversity,conservation — hc @ 9:46 am

I get pessimistic about the sorts of biodiversity conservation concerns I hold strongly. I felt sad this week when I read of a couple of drunken Western Force rugby players being convicted of ‘hammer-throwing’ endangered Quokkas on Rottnest Island near Perth. The Quokkas are a macropod that basically survives on two offshore islands that are free from foxes – but not humans. One of the footballers was fined $11,000.

The Quokkas are friendly animals that show no fear of humans – they would have been an easy target for these morons.

Earlier this year I posted on the lack of biodiversity conservation effort on Macquarie Island – the island, a World Heritage area about halfway between Australia and Antarctica, is home to 3.5 million seabirds and 80,000 elephant seals and is one of the few breeding sites in the Pacific section of the Southern Ocean. The Age today includes an article and an editorial on the urgency of this issue. Essentially feral cats were wiped out on the island on 2002/03 leading to an explosion of rabbit and rat numbers. Subsequent disputes between Tasmanian and Commonwealth Governments over who would foot the repair bill have led to nothing being done. The Age article provides a devastating picture of destruction on this great wilderness area. It concludes:

The feral destruction of the island’s native vegetation is akin to Ayers Rock being taken over by 100,000 clowns with jackhammers or the Great Barrier Reef being used as torpedo practice.

Politically the area is part of Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government has finally – after a devastating report by WWF – agreed to put up its share of the bill (half of $26 million) and will initiate a program of using baits to kill rats and hunting dogs trained to kill rabbits but not nesting penguins and albatrosses. The question is whether action has been left too late. King penguins – pictured – have been killed in landslides on slopes destroyed by rabbit foraging. Gassing rabbit warrens and using sharpshooters would reduce the pressure imposed by overwhelming rabbit numbers and give other instruments for control more time to work.

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