Ruddy success – Ruddy Duck slaughter cancelled!

Posted on the 3rd May 1997

The Department of the Environment has cancelled its plans for a mass slaughter of ruddy ducks in the UK following protests by Animal Aid across the country over the Easter weekend.

As we previously reported, the ruddy duck’s alleged crime was to have flown over to Spain from this country and mated with the endangered white-headed duck (a closely-related stifftail). The resulting hybrid was viewed as ‘impure’ by some conservation groups and they pressed for the ruddys to be culled, determined to conserve the ‘racially pure’ white-headed duck.

A ‘Ruddy Duck Working Group’ was set up in the UK, consisting chiefly of representatives from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Department of the Environment. Trial shootings of ruddys took place, with some birds dying in prolonged agony. One took 2 hours to die. Another was shot 13 times and was still alive when picked up from the water.

Animal Aid’s highly publicised demonstration outside the RSPB’s AGM last October helped raise public awareness about the planned cull and we decided to follow this with protests outside each of the 8 Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centres over the Easter weekend. Both organisations actively supported a further trial cull of ruddy ducks this Spring and we needed the help of their members to get the slaughter stopped. We distributed thousands of leaflets to Trust visitors explaining our campaign and urged them to support us by raising the issue during their visit. The protests attracted considerable media attention and triggered a series of regional radio and TV debates.

Our position was quite clear: that we support the valuable efforts of conservation charities who work to preserve species’ habitats and to raise public awareness about wildlife, but that when certain groups begin to advocate the killing of one species in order to conserve another, we have no choice but to do everything we can to stop them. We are convinced that the level of public opposition to the cull gave the DoE the final push it needed. A couple of days after our WWT protests, the DoE advised Animal Aid that it “currently” has “no plans for a trial cull”. And an official spokesperson for English Nature – who have been advising Government on the issue and had serious reservations about the killings – told us, “It’s off indefinitely as far as we are 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.” Animal Aid will continue campaigning to ensure that this decision is a permanent one.

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