Animal Protection >
DUCK SHOOTING: LEVY MOPS UP
Laurie Levy is one of the great characters in the
Australian Animal Rights Movement. He is the driving force behind
The Coalition Against Duck-Shooting. This year, like all others
since 1986, he will be back on the Wetlands of Victoria rescuing the
water birds and putting fear into the shooters. We speak to the man
(In case you didn't know, in the picture (right) Laurie is the
one with the moustache, and not the one dressed like Rambo and
holding a gun.)
Interviewed by Claudette Vaughan
Claudette: What's been happening this past year
Laurie: Well when we first started the campaign
there were 95,000 duck shooters in Victoria. That was in 1986.
Last year at the opening of the 2001 duck-shooting season
there were only about 3000 duck shooters out on Victoria's
wetlands. Basically I would say that our campaign now is in
the mopping up stage.
The opening of duck shooting season is not what it used to
be. The majority of shooters now have gone -- only the
hard-liners left and they know their days are numbered. It's
just a matter of time before we get rid of them once and for
Claudette: Laurie where have these shooters gone to?
Where are they focussing their energy now?
Laurie: What's happened over the past 15 to 17 years
is there's been a major swing in public opinion whereabouts in
the early eighties duck shooting was just something that was
tolerated each year -- nobody really questioned it. Once we
came along and with all the media publicity we've had over the
past 17 years it is increasingly seen as an activity that is
on the nose. Now it is viewed finally as an antisocial, male
activity that is no longer acceptable to the community at
large. Shooters have dropped out and I would say that is
because there are a lot less shotguns out there than what was
Claudette: How have your strategies changed over the
Laurie: Well I guess we've analysed our work
constantly and been critical about it. We have analysed our
interviews to see how we have been performing through the
media, how our opponents have been performing through the
media, how the media is handling the issue and we change our
tactics to suit the prevailing conditions.
Of course right from the early days we've been successful.
For example in 1990 the Victorian government introduced a
water fowl identification test and in 1990 the Western
Australian government banned recreational duck shooting. In
1993, what happened was the Victorian government introduced
political legislation to clamp down on rescuers and the media
by fining them for being on the Wetlands. In the past 8 or 9
years we've received in the order of $100,000 in fines. So we
raise money each year to pay these fines for rescuers.
After the Port Arthur tragedy the Prime Minister banned
semi-automatic weapons. About 75% of duck shooters use
semi-automatics or pump-action shot guns. In 2001 we got
lead-shot banned and that also helped reduce the number of
Public opinion is still our best and number one weapon.
Claudette: What advice do you have for our New
Zealand readers where they still have a large duck-shooting
season with only a few rescuers going out to help rescue the
Laurie: When we first started, 15 rescuers went out
against 95,000 shooters. The usual comment was how effective
can 15 people be against 95,000 duck shooters? The important
thing for anyone to remember -- anyone starting any issues
when you are debating through the media it is not 15 against
95,000. It is one on one. It doesn't matter how much money
your opponents have or how little you may have, it is who wins
the debate. That's why having media there is so important.
The Duck Campaign was based on two images. One was the Duck
Shooter dressed as a soldier in camouflage gear carrying a
semi-automatic and shooting down small defenseless birds. The
other image was of a rescuer coming out of the water with a
rescued bird. Now that second image was one of kindness and
compassion and that will always beat an act of violence every
Claudette: You put 100% into your campaigns even
hiring planes to disperse the wetland birds before the
shooters arrive. Is that correct?
Laurie: Yes it is. Every year we fly up on a
Thursday before the opening and we move the so-called "game"
species away. These tactics have always been effective and it
upsets the shooters no end. They see it as a preemptive strike
in their territory.
Claudette: You've been quoted as saying that the
only danger on opening day is usually with shooters mistaking
other shooters for birds and firing at them.
Laurie: It's important for rescuers to remember that
they are entering a war zone and you've got to be very
careful. Always wear white, bright or fluorescent clothing so
you can be seen. It's important not to take any silly risks
when out there.
Claudette: Are you still receiving that vicious
anti-Semitic mail and phone calls that you used to get in duck
shootings hey day?
Laurie: In the early days I used to receive a lot of
death threats but these days shooters realise their
recreational activity is coming to an end. I still get e-mails
from American duck shooters via my web-site. Of course they
get pretty upset as they really haven't been challenged in
America yet as they have been in Australia. They don't like it
one bit and it's always nice to upset them (laughter).
Claudette: Lastly, the Victorian government has
agreed to fill the Wetlands this year for the 2002 season.
What message do you think that is sending out Laurie?
Laurie: Victoria is in it's seventh year of a major
drought. Even where we go to the Wetlands that area has had
100mm less rain than last year so what the government has done
is help out the shooters and has artificially filled 3 or 4
Wetlands. That says to me that the government is obviously
going to go ahead with a duck season in 2002. It'll be on the
third weekend in March and we will need as many rescuers as
possible if anybody wants to join our Rescue Team. That would
Website: Coalition Against Duck Shooting