19 December 2023

Call for police investigation into brumby aerial cull trial as NSW inquiry gets underway

| Edwina Mason
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Wild horses in national park

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party called for a police probe into a recent trial of aerial shooting in Kosciuszko National Park. Photo: Supplied.

It was not a day for the fainthearted in NSW Parliament yesterday (18 December) as the first public hearing into the proposed aerial shooting of wild horses, or brumbies, in Kosciuszko National Park (KNP) got underway.

Of the 165 inquiry submissions received, 18 got Monday in the chair, including NSW Department of Planning and Environment representatives, brumby advocacy and animal welfare groups, veterinary experts, conservation organisations, scientists and hunting specialists.

The inquiry, which falls under the auspices of the NSW Government’s Animal Welfare Committee, was initially announced in August to examine the government’s proposal to amend the KNP Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan (KNP WHHMP) to include aerial shooting as the culling method.

In October, the NSW Government adopted the amendment to the KNP WHHMP, a change it said was the result of strong community input, with 82 per cent of 11,002 public submissions expressing support for the control method.

READ ALSO Brumby recommendations divide opinions in final Senate inquiry report

While discussion swirled around different population count methodologies and impacts of the wild horses on the sensitive alpine and sub-alpine environment, experts were also called to give evidence on a recent aerial shooting trial conducted in the national park.

A report entitled Animal Welfare Assessment of Feral Horse Aerial Shooting Kosciuszko National Park detailed the two eight-hour days of shooting where 277 wild horses were shot in the southern end of KNP in November 2023.

As a result of the report, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party chair Mark Banasiak requested a NSW Police investigation of the trial.

In the letter delivered Monday morning to Agriculture, Regional NSW and Western NSW Minister Tara Moriarty, Mr Banasiak referenced the recent supplementary Budget Estimates hearing where Department of Primary Industries (DPI) director-general Scott Hansen and Chief Animal Welfare Officer Kim Filmer agreed that chasing an animal for several hundred yards while delivering as many as 15 shots into it, to induce enough bleeding to euthanase the animal, would be a reportable offence under the NSW Protection of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Mr Banasiak said SFF held grave concerns regarding the information contained in the report.

“The report details, on page six, a total of 2032 shots were fired, ranging from three-15 shots fired at each horse, with a mean of 7.5 shots,” he said.

“Responsible conservation hunters are bound by a code of ethics in dealing with the humane dispatch of pest animals.

”Ethics and a moral compass dictate that any more than a single, or two shots at most, would be considered inhumane.”

He said because of the positioning of the helicopter, at times observers were not able to confirm whether the horse’s demise was swift, or they suffered.

Wild horses in the Snowy Mountains. Photo: Australian Brumby Alliance.

The RSPCA’s own definition of humane reads “when an animal is either killed instantly or rendered insensible until death ensues, without pain, suffering or distress”.

“Considering the report was prepared by the RSPCA, this brings into question their ability to independently arbitrate and their continuing role as an authority under the act,” Mr Banasiak said.

“One would assume the independent assessor would voice concerns when their lack of visibility became apparent, and the ensuing barrage of bullets.”

READ ALSO Discovery of starving foals in Kosciuszko National Park sparks outrage

The Animal Welfare Committee is investigating animal welfare and human safety concerns associated with aerial shooting as well as the impact of previous aerial shooting operations in NSW.

The committee is also examining the adequacy of laws, policies and programs for controlling brumby populations and will consider any alternatives to aerial shooting.

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Requesting a Police investigation is just political grandstanding from a party that wants to send recreational hunters to shoot in our national parks . The RSPCA observed the aerial shoot and found no matters that would warrant prosecution. We have to remember this is not hunting, it is culling and repeat shooting was instigated to stop the whinging from animal rights people about horses being left to die for hours or days. Robert Borsak made his intentions clear at the Senate inquiry and Brian Boyle also. Boyle is involved in a recreational hunting program in Lichfield NP (NT) which has been nothing but ineffective for feral animal control and humane culling of pests.

There is video of accredited and permitted recreational hunters wounding horses and pigs and following blood trails to finish the animal. see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDwPgnOW6Js&ab_channel=AdventureBound

In 2021, 195 hunters shot 235 pest animals (broad range of species) in Lichfield. Ground has been shown to be less humane and follow-up shots of wounded animals is more difficult if they are still mobile. Terrain also dictates and horses inhabit a considerable amount of rugged mountain area.

Have no doubt, if recreational hunters were allowed to cull horses we would see horse populations continue to rise just as we are with deer and more horses will be wounded or not killed humanely.

It seems the Brumby advocates will do or say anything to undermine the culling.

Poppy Wheeler11:51 pm 19 Dec 23

NSW State Forests use volunteer accredited insured shooters for their pest animal control. Maybe worth looking at the $/animal and animal/hr acheived there. Hunting NSW would have the data to produce these statistics.

Poppy Wheeler11:45 pm 19 Dec 23

Hard for ground shooting to compete with 17 horses /hr for aerial shooting.
Ground shooting is likely less $/horse, as well as being more humane.
Possiblity of licenced insured accredited shooters under the oversight of NPWS (Suplimentary Pest Control program) if the cost of oversight is acceptable.
NSW State Forests use accredited insured volunteer

Margaret King8:49 pm 19 Dec 23

The issue has been hijacked by a lobby group who have convinced the media and politicians that the KNP is overrun with wild horses. The science that has been used has been shown to be false, The damage that is claimed to have been done is contingent on the massive numbers, and much of the damage done by wild pigs and dogs is wrongly attributed to horses.

Using Line Transect Sampling cannot estimate moving objects at all and the inhumane killing of horses, was based on Stuart Cairns ‘science’. The developer of the software (St Andrew’s University) that he used found his numbers to be a biological impossibility and refused to peer review his findings.

It is deplorable that public money has been used for very cruel killings based on false science. Penny Sharpe should be ashamed that it took up to 15 bullets to kill an animal and that it was done with no regard for animal welfare.

Not only that, but the bodies of wild horses have been left around as food for wild dogs and pigs during a time when NSW has a pig plague. A sow can produce 4 litters in a year and can have 10 piglets. This is our Environment Minister pfft!

The aspect of the carcasses interests me – as a Professional Delivery Driver of 40 years – & quite used to delivering heavy loads. I’m assuming that your average adult horse weighs around the 1-tonne mark, give or take. Even IF the horse is conveniently shot right beside the highway or at least a good track, what would be the practical method of removing said carcass? You’d need a truck with sufficient payload – say, a 20-tonner – equipped with lifter/crane equipment & probably 2 personnel (I nearly said “men”) to be of any practical use. And when the horse is dropped AWAY from any roads or tracks, what then? Bearing in mind that we are talking about National Park here? Short of a Helicopter picking up each carcass one at a time, I don’t see any alternative to leaving them where they lie?

Steve Chivers3:35 pm 19 Dec 23

If we can’t control feral animals
effectively we’re going to be
living in a very different Australia
than we’re used to. If they
successfully ban aerial shooting
again, the animal
advocacy groups also have to
accept the responsibility of
damage to the entire
environment, and impacted
non-feral animals. This won’t happen of course, because animal culling triggers much more public outcry than the slow and difficult unnoticed death of the original Australian environment. But if aerial culling is banned, we need to make a concerted effort in ground shooting. This will
take a much greater amount of funding and man hours, so is less likely to happen. I understand why aerial culling upsets people, but please don’t ignore the consequences of not doing it.

Poppy Wheeler11:33 pm 19 Dec 23

Hard for ground shooting to compete with 17 horses /hr for aerial shooting.
Ground shooting is likely less $/horse, as well as being more humane.
Possiblity of licenced insured accredited shooters under the oversight of NPWS (Suplimentary Pest Control program) if the cost of oversight is acceptable.
NSW State Forests use accredited insured volunteer

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