Campaigner Who Saved 500 Sitting Ducks Fights Fine

Video Credit: CEN/ VGT Austria

An Austrian animal rights activist who saved hundreds of sitting ducks bred for hunting by ushering them down a river in Austria and across the border to safety in Hungary has been fined.

Local officials in Neusiedl am See, infuriated at the action by Martin Balluch and the local publicity his rescue of the ducks attracted, have now fined him 110 EUR (101 GBP) – and he will have to spend 34 hours in jail if he does not pay.

The rescue operation exposed a sick practice in which ducks are bred in tiny cages in Hungary and then brought into Austria where they are placed in a fenced area on a lake or river.

Once their wings are strong enough for them to be able to fly, they are released where they have little chance of escaping hunters who are waiting to shoot them come Autumn.

Video Credit: CEN/ VGT Austria

However, on this occasion they were freed because after being released onto the river, Balluch, wearing a huge pair of waders gently herded the ducks downstream and across the border into Hungary. 

On one occasion people working for the hunt try to stop him and he ends up in the water, but nevertheless he carries on until all of the ducks are safely across the border in Hungary.

Balluch, who is standing in the upcoming general election for the party led by independent candidate Peter Pilz, said he would fight the fine and added: “This is no surprise. Abuses are ignored by officials, and anybody who reveals what is going on is victimised.”

Footage shot last year, also by Martin Balluch, shows the hunt in operation and after the images came to light it was ruled to be illegal on the location where it was happening – and banned. But despite that, officials are reportedly doing nothing to stop further releases of ducks.

The fine, which is for illegally herding animals without being a licensed hunter or forestry official, is being fought by his lawyer Stefan Traxler.

He told Central European News (CEN): “It is correct that you can be fined for herding animals in the wild without a hunting licence but we are appealing against this decision. There are cases where you are allowed to break the law without consequences when it is in the interests of stopping a greater crime.

“For example, in trespassing law you cannot enter somebody’s property without permission, but if you see a fire you might go in any way even if there is a ‘No Trespassing’ sign to try and wake up the residents.”

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Story By: Michael LeidigSub-EditorJoseph Golder, Agency: Central European News

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