Animal Aid

DEFRA ACCUSED OF RUDDY DUCK SLAUGHTER COVER-UP

Posted 26 July 2002
Ruddy duckEnvironment Minster, Michael Meacher, is this week accused by national campaign group, Animal Aid, of deliberately concealing from the public the large-scale suffering endured by thousands of ruddy ducks in a recently-completed government-commissioned 'trial cull'. The killing - part of a sick 'genetic cleansing' operation - was to test the feasibility of eradicating the entire UK ruddy duck population. Ducks were slaughtered on their nests and in wintering grounds by Ministry-appointed gunmen.

A report just submitted to Meacher's DEFRA ministry by the Central Science Laboratory in York - to whom the killing was contracted - has revealed that 2,651 ruddy ducks have been killed in the 'regional cull' leaving a surviving population of over 3,000 ducks. The cull that ran from April 1999 until May this year was centred on the West Midlands, Anglesey and Fife. The government was urged to proceed with the slaughter programme by the RSPB and Wildfowl & 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 an earlier rehearsal for the recently-completed slaughter, a sizeable percentage of ruddys took hours to die, with some having to be shot numerous times. Others were injured and never retrieved. The newly published report fails conspicuously to offer any detail of the carnage. And, despite an assurance by DEFRA that welfare considerations would be taken into account, the report carries no word on the subject.

With around 50% of landowners refusing the ministry-appointed gunmen access to their land on which ducks were resident, DEFRA is now considering invoking draconian measures to gain compulsory access. Animal Aid will be contacting these landowners to offer support to those wishing to protect their ducks, offering guidance to those who are unsure, and reassuring those already involved in the cull that it is not too late to disassociate from it.

Says Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler:

"The whole scheme is callous, cynical and anti-democratic. To overcome the enormously complicated logistics of this cull will cost millions of pounds of taxpayers money - ruddy ducks disperse and dive when under threat and are located on as many as a 1,000 sites. A special licence to gain compulsory access to land would have to be sought - all very reminiscent of the botched foot and mouth slaughter."

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

Notes to Editors

  • More information from Elaine Toland or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546. See also campaign history and factfile here.
  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast-quality radio interviews.

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