Animal Aid

RUDDY DUCKS - Help urgently needed

Posted 1 August 2002


Having just slaughtered thousands more ruddy ducks in a so-called trial cull, DEFRA, the environment ministry, is poised to attempt to wipe out virtually the entire UK population of these beautiful birds. Why? Because, after escaping from a collection imported from North America in the 1940's, the duck is now well established and flying to Spain to mate with endangered white-headed ducks who had been hunted to near extinction. The result is an 'impure' hybrid, which won't be tolerated by top table conservation groups and DEFRA.

The most scandalous outcome of the completed trial, which was carried in Fife, Anglesey and the Midlands, is that there has been no mention of the immense suffering that birds have undoubtedly undergone. A previous killing spree - the rehearsal for this latest three-year cull - resulted in one ruddy duck being shot 13 times and retrieved from the water still alive; and another taking two hours to die. Perhaps sensing that there would be popular revolt, no such data has been made public this time, although DEFRA gave the assurance that bird welfare would be taken into account.

The original objective of the cull was to assess the feasibility of total eradication. Three years on, however, it is claimed that the intention was to assess the feasibility of achieving a 95% reduction - could this already be an admission of failure?

Apart from the cruelty and the madness of the project - the logistics are overwhelmingly complicated. Ruddy ducks disperse and dive when under threat and are located on as many as a 1,000 sites. DEFRA's report acknowledged that 500f landowners refused to let marksmen on to their land and so there is now talk of bringing in draconian measures to gain compulsory access to land - all very reminiscent of the misery and bloodshed of the foot and mouth disaster.

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

Shamefully, the keenest advocates of this project are the RSPB and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust - the latter body having introduced ruddys, as an 'ornamental species', in the first place. The cost to the taxpayer of exterminating the surviving 3,000-plus ruddy ducks is predicted to run into several million pounds - money that would have been better spent on clearing waterways and preserving natural habitat.

Animal Aid has fought from the start to defend these hapless birds. We will be approaching landowners - and to those who previously refused access to government gunmen, we will be encouraging them to stand firm and will support them in protecting their ducks. To landowners who are, as yet, undecided we will entreat them to resist in the interests of sanity and compassion. It's not too late for landowners who did allow shooting to take place to disassociate themselves from this mindless scheme.


  • Before making a final decision, the government will hear outside views. Please write to your MP and the Environment Minister to demand an environmental policy that does not resort to easy scapegoating. Depending on where you live, addresses are as follows:
    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.
  • Please also write to your local paper and suggest that those who feel strongly should write to their MP and the Environment Minister.
  • Find out more about the ruddy duck campaign.
  • Support Animal Aid campaigns - get active.

Send this page to a friend

Read about how we treat your data: privacy policy.

© Copyright Animal Aid 2014