Wigan Ruddy Ducks next on hit list

Posted on the 12th October 2007

Despite opposition from Animal Aid, local bird groups and the local Community Action Party, Wigan council’s Environmental Services Director Martin Kimber has given the go ahead to allow government killing gangs to slaughter around 140 ruddy ducks who have made their home on Wigan Flashes. If the killing proceeds, it will be a brutal, ugly business. Earlier 'trial culls' of ruddys in other parts of Britain resulted in birds being shot a dozen times and lingering for more than 90 minutes before finally expiring.

The ruddy was brought to this country from North America in the 1940s by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, as an ‘ornamental’ species. A few escaped and bred in the wild. Their numbers increased to several thousand and some of these were said to have reached Spain and mated with a rare duck called the white headed – rare because it had been hunted and its wetlands habitat destroyed by people.

‘Conservation’ zealots at RSPB headquarters decided that the product of this union between the ruddy and white-headed was offensive. Labelled an impure hybrid, it had to be hunted down and destroyed. In order words, it’s killing in the name of blood purity.

But nature is not pure, or fixed. It is in flux – not least because of the dramatic and continuing impact our own species has on the landscape. The mating of close genetic kin – hybridisation – is a fact of bird life.

Among those most vehemently opposed to the ruddy slaughter is the leading British ornithologist, Tom Gullick, who first alerted the Spanish authorities to the precarious position of the white-headed duck. The Spanish took action to preserve the main breeding grounds and their white headed population has since grown from just 20 or 30 birds to between 3,000 and 5,000.

Gullick told The Times that the cull proponents ‘will never succeed in the total eradication of the ruddy duck’. He added: ‘It’s a scandalous misuse of rare conservation money. But I think too many people have stuck their necks too far up above the parapet to admit that they are wrong.’

Meanwhile, as a result of warmer British winters, ruddy duck migration to Spain has virtually stopped. Just four were spotted (and killed) in 2006. As a consequence, hybridisation – which should never have been seen as a problem – is probably no longer taking place. Given that arguments for the cull were founded on putting a stop to hybridisation, the pro-cull argument is dead in the water.

The ruddy duck ‘cull’ is about scapegoating. It is about cynical politics and muddled reactionary thinking. It is too easy to blame one species for the perilous condition of another, while failing to acknowledge our own environmental vices. The people of Wigan should resist this pointless and grotesque slaughter.

Take Action

Please write to Wigan Council Leader Lord Peter Smith asking him to reverse his decision to allow government gunmen access to Wigan and Leigh flashes to kill the ruddy ducks.

The Leader of Wigan Council
Lord Peter Smith
Town Hall
Library Street
Email: Lord Smith

And also to:
Martin Kimber
Director of Environmental Services
Town Hall
Library Street
Email: Martin Kimber

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