Animal Aid

CAMPAIGN TO SAVE RUDDY DUCKS WILL CONTINUE

Posted 6 July 1998

National animal rights group Animal Aid has today reacted with dismay at the Department of the Environment's new White-Headed Duck Task Force. The initiative has been established to conserve the Spanish white-headed duck - now threatened because it has been hunted and its habitat destroyed by people. But Animal Aid is concerned that this process could lead to further persecution of ruddy ducks, who have been blamed for the white-headed duck's decline, and have already been subjected to small-scale trial culls that led to great suffering.

Ruddy ducks were first imported to Britain from North America by conservationists for adding to their personal collections. Some escaped and established themselves in the wild. They are now allegedly flying over to Spain and mating with the white-headed duck - leading to an 'impure' hybrid which conservationists believe to be unacceptable.

Plans for a cull of ruddy ducks were originally cancelled in April 1997 following a series of protests led by Animal Aid. This spring, Environment Minister Michael Meacher said that 'If a cull is really needed, the reasons for the cull need to be defended more robustly...'.

The White-Headed Duck Task Force will 'recommend the best scientific and cost effective method of carrying out a control trial of the ruddy duck in order to assess whether it is necessary and practicable to move to a larger control strategy.'

Members of the Task Force include the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust - conservation bodies both known for their pro-culling standpoint. English Nature, who originally advised the government against a cull, are also on board. However, Barbara Young, former Chief Executive of the RSPB, has become English Nature's Chair.

Said Animal Aid's Director, Andrew Tyler,

"Despite massive public opposition to a cull of ruddy ducks, the task force has an alarmingly pro-cull bias. Amongst the 11 represented organisations, we are not aware of any which will have welfare concern for the thousands of ruddy ducks which could be slaughtered in 1999. We are urging Mr.Meacher to ensure that this task force is subject to full public scrutiny."

Mr. Tyler continued,

"Conservation should be about protecting all animals and their habitat, not about killing 'non-native' animals in the name of genetic purity. Ruddy and white-headed ducks are obviously close genetic kin, since they are able to breed successfully. They should be allowed to get on with it."

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