Recreational hunters using rifles, crossbows and dogs will be allowed to kill feral animals in state forests and on public lands in a controversial trial next month. Licensed huntsmen will be allowed to hunt feral cats, dogs, deer, goats, pigs and foxes after the State Government approved the two-day trial in four public locations from February 4. However, a declaration published in the NSW Government Gazette on Friday reveals the four state forests have already been designated as the first official, full-scale hunting grounds. The proposed order allows hunting for five years in these areas, with hundreds more to follow in March.
My understanding is that private operators already do some feral animal control on public land, but under close government supervision – quite different to opening the areas up for hunting.
This is an interesting one for environmental economics as it’s an example of harnessing private self-interest to further public goals.
It will be interesting to see the public response to this – in theory it could achieve important environmental objectives but it also raises animal welfare issues (will the animals be killed humanely?) and the idea of opening up public land to hunters is not one that would appeal to many environmentalists.
Green groups are suspicious and suggest that native animals are likely also to become targets. Some suggest that the plan will encourage hunters to deliberately stock public lands with young feral animals to hunt at a later stage. Other possible problems include danger to other users of these areas and environmental damage caused by hunters and their vehicles and hunting dogs. Apparently hunting dogs also escape and become destructive feral animals themselves.
What do you think? Is this plan a fox in wallaby’s clothing?