Animal Welfare and Control of Invasive Species
Many landholders in WA experience significant problems associated with introduced animals and some native animals that are viewed as ‘pests’ because of their adverse impacts on human activities and the health of the environment.
Invasive species such as foxes, pigs, cats, rabbits and corellas, to name just a few, may threaten agricultural assets such as crops and livestock and harm the environment. Normal farm work may also be disrupted in some areas by hobby hunters pursuing animals from public lands especially national parks onto private land and damaging property.
RSPCA is frequently contacted about the control of invasive species. Some people hold the mistaken belief that RSPCA opposes any control of these animals. However, we acknowledge that in some circumstances it is necessary to manage populations of wild animals, native or introduced.
Nevertheless, even if an animal is regarded as a ‘pest’, it can still feel pain, suffering and distress. With any activity directed at controlling these animals, it’s important to consider potential adverse impacts on target and ‘non-target’ animals.
RSPCA policy is that control methods used must be the most relatively humane as possible and techniques used should avoid or minimise pain, suffering and distress to target and non-target animals. More information on how to assess the humaneness of a control method can be found on the RSPCA Australia Knowledge Base.
We believe control of invasive species should be undertaken via properly planned, resourced and monitored programs carried out by appropriately licensed, experienced and skilled operators.
Amateur Hunting - RSPCA's viewpoint
- animals are sometimes chased long distances causing fear, distress and exhaustion
- animals are hunted with arrows and knives and are not killed humanely
- injured animals may suffer prolonged pain and distress
- dogs that are used may not be properly trained or controlled and may also be injured
- technical skills may be lacking resulting in missed shots, injury and inhumane death
- young are left abandoned to suffer and die over a prolonged period
Recreational Hunting or "Pest Management" - What's the Difference?
Recreational hunting has nothing to do with effective management of invasive species.
Proper management programs are carried out with the aim of reducing the negative impacts on agriculture and natural resources using the most humane, target specific, cost effective and efficient techniques available. This should be done with the most up to date knowledge of the best management methods for a particular species, which may include non-lethal control methods, and the type of terrain involved.
On the other hand, most amateur hunting is done with the primary motivation to chase and kill pest or game animals for enjoyment of the hunter. Amateur hunting is not effective in reducing pest animals in the long term. There are numerous studies that have shown this. Click here for more information.
In addition, recreational hunting can interfere with proper pest animal management. Animals are chased and dispersed over long distances, only some animals are removed leaving others to continue to breed and proper coordinated programs already in place can be disrupted.
Amateurs who want animals to hunt, will ‘seed’ areas to ensure their activities can continue. This is especially the case in WA with pigs and some types of deer.
Amateur hunters want animals to hunt. Properly coordinated control programs want to manage animal populations to reduce negative impacts.
Illegal Hunting - What's Happening Now in WA?
Right now, there are many amateurs hunting illegally on public lands throughout the Mid-West and South West of WA. The vast areas of the State combined with the dense forests in the South West land division make it very difficult to assess the animal welfare and environmental impacts of their activities.
RSPCA WA has received complaints from farmers about animal cruelty caused by illegal hobby hunters. The complaints include the inhumane way in which pigs are pursued and killed and there are also reports of hobby hunters setting up fights between their dogs and feral pigs.
We have reports of pigs being ‘seeded’ in national parks for hunting in future. This is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act (2002) but it is difficult to catch the offenders. The seeding activities have been verified by academic studies that have found DNA evidence of pigs originating outside the areas in which they were found.
Both farmers and professional pest animal management services report traps on farmland being sabotaged by hobby hunters.
Farmers who confront the hobby hunters, even on their own properties, say they have been threatened.
What the WA Community Thinks
Independent market research in 2015 found almost three out of four West Australians do not support hunting animals for recreation.