Save the deer - for hunters

Animal welfare groups say hunters are behind a mysterious campaign to stop the poisoning of feral deer and goats in national parks - because it will only reduce the number of animals they can shoot.

Groups including the RSPCA believe interests connected to the state-funded Game Council issued a pamphlet calling the government's ''horror trial'' of cyanide poisoning a ''welfare disaster'' for deer.

But, far from caring about the feral animals, the hunters want to preserve as many live targets as possible now that national parks will be opened to shooters, the groups claim.

The Game Council has denied any knowledge of the pamphlet's origins.

No group has put its name to the flyer, which shows a poisoned deer dead on the ground. But Animals Australia said it was ''reprehensible'' that a quote, taken out of context from a section of its website unrelated to deer, had been used in the leaflet.

In a letter to the Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, on July 2, Animals Australia's executive director, Glenys Oogjes, said: ''Our own views could not be further apart from those of this group of pro-hunting organisations. This attempt at alignment with Animals Australia is merely a reprehensible attempt to suggest their own recreation hunting methods are humane. Please disregard this reference to Animals Australia.''

Seventy-nine national parks have been opened to hunters in a deal between the O'Farrell government and the balance-of-power Shooters and Fishers Party. But the pamphlet urges people to write to Ms Parker to stop the cyanide trial, begun by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service after extensive scientific research into humane and cost-effective control of feral animals. The research is endorsed by the Animal Ethics Committee whose members include the RSPCA.

The pamphlet states: ''NPWS cruelty will destroy [deer] mothers leaving many grieving offspring behind to a slow and painful death. The welfare of deer do not matter to the political interests of the extreme Green lobby. NPWS is responsible for the welfare of these sentient animals which will suffer horrendous deaths.''

An RSPCA spokesman said: ''The pamphlet is a deliberate attempt to bolster support for recreational hunting of deer. Hunters are opposed to all other deer management methods as they regard deer as a game species. Unfortunately this ignores the environmental impacts of deer and the need to develop humane target-specific methods to control deer.''

A Game Council spokesman said: "Game Council has no knowledge of, or connection with, this flyer. The council provides game hunting licences which enables conservation hunting to take place in removing game and feral animals from public land. It is not Game Council's role to comment on the effectiveness of other control methods for game and feral animals."

The Greens environment spokeswoman, Cate Faerhmann, said it was clear Ms Parker and the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, were under pressure from hunters for more concessions.

''If the Game Council and its political arm, the Shooters Party, get their way, deer populations will spread, putting delicate ecosystems at further risk … Animal welfare groups know that the trial is an attempt to find a more humane solution to pest deer.''

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