They've got enough footage to paint me as a great conservationist, a right-wing hick, a bleeding heart lefty or a plain old dope.
Last Friday I spent a day filming a 60 Minutes segment with reporter Charles Wooley, a cool WRX-blue Squirrel chopper, a mid-size feral boar and a cute-as-a-button piglet. Despite a really heavy cold, it was great fun. Whether it's fun after it's screened Sunday night might depend on whether reporter Wooley caught my cold or not.
Our discussion centred on the role of hunting in feral animal control. At the moment, it plays a minor role at best in Australia. Shooters would like to increase that role and in some States have adopted the term "conservation hunting" to reinforce that intent. I have no problem with the intent, but I'd argue it isn't yet a reality, and some claims by some shooters that they could effectively take over the job of feral animal management is going way too far.
On the other hand, hunters have been vital in the much quoted Operation Bounceback in South Australia. This type of involvement is to be applauded and encouraged but we should also remember the words of hunters that have participated in that program: "It is our contention that, as long as the objectives of volunteer programs are clearly defined and agreed upon by the stakeholders, volunteer participation should be encouraged. However, their role is not to provide free staffing to maintain parks" (Bakers VPC submission to inquiry into Australia's National Parks...). The trouble with the current debate is the lack of clear definition of the role of hunters - the NSW Game Council has taken to savaging anyone that questions that a kill count is not the same thing as integrated pest animal management (besides its swipe at the Invasive Species Council, the Game Council is now unhappy with Australasian Wildlife Management Society President Terry Korn).
Charles Wooley was fascinated that I'd come straight from a conference where the contention was there is no such thing as a feral animal. He felt that hunting and fishing (or any activity to get people to commune with the environment) was ultimately valuable in making people value conservation. I tend to agree with this view - I don't hunt but I try to fish, and I definitely think we need Australians to be in the Australian bush more often. then they can make up there own minds I suppose.
60 Minutes screens at 7.30pm Sunday 26 July. Barring something coming up, the feral animal segment should show this week.
Posted by Tony Peacock, founder of 'Feral Thoughts'