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RUDDY DUCK BRIEFING NOTES
Posted 1 April 1999
- The ruddy duck is a North American 'stifftail' which was originally imported to the UK in the late 1940s by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge (founded by Sir Peter Scott). Following an accidental release in 1952, the ducks established themselves successfully in the wild, and the British population now numbers almost 4,000. The white-headed duck became endangered in Spain because it was hunted and its habitat was destroyed.
- The ruddy duck is to be found in 20 countries throughout Europe. In some countries they are freely traded without the need for a licence. In the UK, many private landowners have said that they won't allow shooting of ruddy ducks to take place on their property. A survey by the UK government showed that permission for shooting is likely to granted on only 40-60% of ruddy duck breeding sites in the summer, and only 30% during the winter.
- Trial shootings of the ruddy duck took place in 1993 and 1994, backed by the Ruddy Duck Working Group (RDWG). The RDWG consisted chiefly of representatives from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and the Department of the Environment. The shootings resulted in some birds dying in protracted agony. According to a Department of the Environment report, one bird was shot 13 times and was still alive when picked up from the water. Another took 2 hours to die.
- The Department of the Environment cancelled plans for a mass slaughter of ruddy ducks in the UK in April 1997, following protests by Animal Aid across the country days previously. Animal Aid organised a highly publicised demonstration outside the RSPB's AGM in October 1996, followed by protests outside each of the 8 Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust centres over Easter weekend 1997. At this stage, English Nature - who had been advising the government on the issue - told Animal Aid, 'It's off indefinitely as far as we're concerned. We are very pleased that the government has taken our advice... the government does not wish it to take place so it will not take place.'
- In December 1997, 35 countries belonging to Europe's Bern Convention told the UK government to proceed with a cull of 4,000 North American ruddy ducks 'without further delay'. The Convention's stated objective is to conserve European wildlife and habitats. At this time, Michael Meacher wrote to Animal Aid and said, 'I understand the concerns you have raised about the control of ruddy ducks in this country. If a cull is really needed, the reasons for the cull need to be defended more robustly, and it is accepted that it should be carried out without unnecessary cruelty'.
- In July 1998, the Department of the Environment announced a new 'White-Headed Duck Task Force' to, 'plan and coordinate the implemenation of a control trial [of ruddy ducks]' and also, 'develop a public relations strategy to inform the public of the need for control'. No welfare organisations were represented on or consulted by the Task Force. Today's goverment announcement is based on the Task Force's report.
- Animal Aid believes that the cull plans are cruel and senseless, and will be impossible to carry out. Obsessively targeting one species of duck whose only crime has been to mate with another - a liaison that will result in the survival of both types - amounts to species racism. It will also divert precious resources away from genuine conservation projects. If the government has a true commitment to conservation, they should be channelling funds into the preservation of wildlife habitat, not the killing of ruddy ducks.
Notes to Editors
- More information: Becky Smith on 01732 364 546.
- Please see ruddy duck campaign index.