As Tauranga hunters went after black swans in their annual ‘cull' SAFE Executive director Hans Kriek asked: "Is this a cull for environmental reasons, or is it a bunch of duck shooters going out for a bit of a thrill kill?"

Local residents and animal lovers were shocked and disappointed that the annual black swan shoot went ahead again on Tauranga Harbour (27 May). SAFE received a number of complaints from people who also asked how it could be stopped.

The shooting claimed the lives of 217 native black swans, and injured an unknown number of birds. Mr Kriek said the shooting is indiscriminate slaughter, and causes severe suffering to those birds not killed outright.

The hunt was authorised by Fish and Game, which justified it as a way of keeping down bird numbers, citing conservation benefits. In a report in the New Zealand Herald Brian Samson, vice-president of Western Bay of Plenty Fish and Game Club, said the shoot had traditionally been kept low-key. "We go out as a bunch of like-minded individuals having a great day. We enjoy being successful and a job well done, but anybody who enjoys killing for the sake of killing has no place in our organisation."

But Mr Kriek questioned the need for it and said the primary purpose remains a day out for the hunters. "You've really got to wonder what the issue is here. Is this a cull for environmental reasons, or is it a bunch of duck shooters going out for a bit of a thrill kill? They seem to have tried to combine the issues."

"Normally speaking, when it's an issue of pest control it will be done by government agencies and they will do it in a professional manner - what you are seeing here is a lot of amateur shooters herding up animals, frightening them and then shooting them."

Mr Kriek could not see the benefit to environmental conservation in killing a few hundred out of a couple of thousand swans. "It's not going to make too much of a difference. And the fact is that our waterways are threatened much more by dairy runoff than by those swans."

4 June 2012