Animal Aid

RUDDY OUTRAGE! 4000 ducks facing slaughter

Posted 1 July 2002

The following coverage of the ruddy duck cull appeared in the Daily Mail, Friday 26th July 2002. Please add your voice to the protests.

A ruddy duckFour thousand British ducks are facing slaughter to satisfy Spanish conservationists. An official cull of our entire population of ruddy ducks is likely because our European neighbour sees the species as a 'genetic menace'.

The ruddy duck, introduced here more than 50 years ago, is migrating to the continent and breeding with the white-headed duck, an endangered species with its main colony in Spain.

In the face of fierce protests from British conservationists and landowners, a trial cull of ruddy ducks has been going on at key UK breeding sites over the past two years. There are now firm moves to extend the cull nationwide with the aim of wiping out the remaining 4,000 birds.

The £5million operation, which is likely to involve 20 marksman armed with shotguns and equipped with power boats, could take ten years to complete. And in a move which will infuriate landowners, conservationists and local authorities, many of whom oppose the slaughter, cull managers are seeking powers to go on to private land without the owner's permission if necessary. Such compulsion carries chilling echoes of the foot and mouth epidemic, where government slaughtermen were empowered to go on to farmland to kill livestock at risk.

The ruddy duck, named for its deep chestnut plumage, was brought to wildfowl reserves in the UK from North America in the 1940s. Following an accidental release in 1952, it established itself and began to migrate to the continent.

The Spanish have complained that the migratory ducks are cross-breeding with protected white-headed ducks, threatening the future of their species. Ministers are thought to be reluctant to go ahead with the cull but are likely to succumb to pressure from European governments, particularly the Spanish.Euro critics will see it as another example of the UK appeasing its partners at the expense of the wishes and interests of its own citizens. Leaving aside the illegal French ban on our beef, Spain is being granted joint sovereignty of Gibraltar in direct contradiction of the wishes of the population.

Defra, the government department responsible for rural affairs, has been supervising the trial cull. If it is widened as planned, it will be the first-ever attempt to eradicate an entire avian species in Britain or Europe. Studies have located large colonies of the migratory ducks on reservoirs around London. There are also substantial populations in Northamptonshire, the West of England, the West Midlands and Fife in Scotland.

A government report argues that rights of access to land - particularly 40 key sites - would be vital to a successful cull. "It is unlikely that voluntary access will be granted for all such sites, and powers of compulsory access for them might need to be considered to ensure success within a reasonable time," it says.

Animal Aid has been campaigning to prevent a cull and similar proposals were abandoned in the 1990s following protests from welfare groups and landowners. The ruddy duck is notoriously difficult to shoot, as it tends to dive rather than fly when alarmed. Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler said:

"This is a callous, very expensive and anti-democratic exercise in the genetic cleansing of nature. In an earlier rehearsal for this slaughter, government officials admitted that birds had to be shot as many as 13 times and took as long as two hours to die."


  • Before making a final decision, the government will hear outside views. Depending on where you live, please write in protest to the following and send copies of your replies to Animal Aid:
    Michael Meacher, Minister for the Environment, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR.
    Ross Finnie, Minister for the Environment and Rural Development, The Scottish Executive, St Andrew's House, Edinburgh EH1 3DG.
    Sue Essex, Minister for the Environment, National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff CF99 1NA.
  • The RSPB and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust are the main proponents of the cull. If you have joined either of these groups, please consider cancelling your membership and writing to their head office to explain why. You may also wish to withdraw a legacy left in your will to either of these organisations. You can write in protest to:
    Tony Richardson, Director, WWT, Slimbridge, Glos GL2 7BT.
    Graham Wynne, Chief Executive, RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Beds SG19 2DL.
  • Find out more about the ruddy duck campaign.
  • Support Animal Aid campaigns - get active.

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