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Black swan cull

Published on August 25, 2014 under General

For several years in a row, the Western Bay of Plenty Fish and Game Club have organised a mass slaughter of the black swans on the Tauranga Harbour. Fish and Game, the statutory body responsible for regulating hunting, provided the club with a permit to use boats to flush the swans out into the harbour, ensuring a plentiful kill.

Last year the mass killing generated national outrage, with footage on national television condemning the hunt. This year, an official from the statutory body Fish and Game admitted to me that they are declining a permit to the game club, due in part to political pressure by animal rights organisations. This represents a partial victory. Hunters are still allowed to shoot black swans, but the organised carnage and slaughter on such a grand scale that tarnished the reputation of the Bay of Plenty area is hopefully a thing of the past.

The black swan cull exemplifies one of the more unpleasant facets of human capriciousness; everyone is suddenly an environmental zealot when it comes to killing things. The black swans are native to Australia but flew to New Zealand on their own volition, so cannot be regarded as exotic invaders. Nevertheless they are vilified by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council because they eat the seagrass on the muddy estuaries.

Some damage to seagrass may indeed be caused by black swans, but most of the damage is from stormwater and leaking sewage mains, not to mention farmland and urban development that silt up the estuaries and alter the ecology. But instead of altering our lifestyle, restricting the rights of polluters to pollute, it is easier to pin all the blame on a bird.

The same events disguising sadism as environmentalism can be seen in national possum hunting contests, including some at schools, which add child abuse to abuse of animals, as many of children who are less desensitised to senseless killing would no doubt be traumatised by such an event.

Again possums do undoubtedly have some effect on the native bush, though most of the demonisation is due more to their economic effects on our exports of dead animals and their mammary gland excretions than true environmental concern. Genuine environmentalists may like to ponder the fact that the biggest threat to the environment is habitat destruction. This can be caused by a great many factors. Global warming on one factor, and animal agriculture is certainly a major culprit world wide in contributing to greenhouse gases.

On a more local scale, true environmentalists may like to take note of Massey University scientist Dr Mike Joy’s research showing the likely extinction of a number of fresh water fish, thanks to animal farms dribbling effluent into the waterways like incontinent toddlers. Extinctions are only one aspect of environmental damage caused by turning rivers and streams into sewers. It used to be possible to swim in any water way in New Zealand. Thanks to giardia and other pathogenic presents the farmers have given us, this is no longer possible

On the high seas, supposedly anti-whaling New Zealand may achieve a dubious fame for being the first country to drive a native marine cetacean to extinction. Set net fishing is killing off the Maui’s dolphin, yet governments and individuals find it easier to blame marsupials or birds than take on the powerful fishing and animal agriculture industries.

So let’s leave the birds alone. Instead let us look to our own behaviour, on an individual and societal level and what we are doing to the environment. Giving up meat, dairy products and fish produced from environmentally destructive industries would do more for our environment than the unsporting slaughter of defenceless swans.


Michael Morris
Environmental Education Ltd.


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