1080 Poison: Indiscriminate, Inhumane & Unnecessary

Sodium fluoroacetate, more commonly known as 1080, is a poison that is being extensively used in Australia to control ‘pest’ species. 1080 is inhumane, as it causes a prolonged, uncomfortable death. It prevents the body’s muscles and organs from absorbing energy, resulting in failure of the lungs and heart, with a death typically lasting between 8-24 hours for birds and 2-4 days for large mammals. During this time, animals endure vomiting, screaming fits, drooling, seizures, frenzied behaviour, and uncontrolled paddling.

This poison is not selective and there is no antidote, subjecting un-targeted species to this painful death. The use of this poison to date, has resulted in hundreds of deaths to non-target victims, including companion dogs and native animals, reptiles, invertebrates, and amphibians, who consume the bait or eat the flesh of poisoned animals, as these bodies remain poisonous until they are completely decomposed. 1080 is also extremely dangerous to humans and in particular, children.


The Targets

1080 is a poison which affects both native and non-native animals. It is widely used by National Parks and Wildlife Service, Rural Lands Protection Board, Farmers and Councils to kill foxes, dingoes, wild dogs, cats, goats, rabbits, pigs and other animals. The frequently offered excuse is that it is to protect Australian native species. This is not true.

In Tasmania, the government subsidises farmers and the woodchip industry to poison possums and wallabies with 1080. Both are native animals. In April this year the Queensland Government announced a major 1080 poisoning campaign of dingoes. The dingo has been in Australia at least 3000 and up to 8000 years. The 1080 was dumped in National Parks and on other public lands. Such campaigns poison not only the target population, but also any other animal which consumes either the bait or the poisoned carcass.

1080 drops happen year after year because farmers will not install electrical fences around their properties to keep these animals out. In Tasmania in 1999, there were 700 drops. In 2002 there was around 1000. Some farmers strongly object to the annual slaughter of native animals by 1080, but the practice continues.

In the city, we are mainly aware of 1080 through its extensive use by councils to kill cats and foxes. Companion animals, native animals and birds die as well. But 1080 is cheap and easily available. Councils and farmers do not wish to see it banned.

How Does 1080 Work?

Death by 1080 is protracted and cruel. Animals poisoned with 1080 scream, vomit, defecate and suffer violent seizures. They die with a final seizure up to 12 hours after ingesting the poison. The late Dr Peter Rawlinson, Conservationist and Lecturer in Zoology at La Trobe University, Melbourne said of 1080: ‘Animals can take up to four days to die from it. Others go out of control after they have ingested it – they tear around banging into trees. It is impossible to say the animal is not suffering.’ EEGs on poisoned animals have produced results consistent with intense pain and distress.

The NRA Review of 1080

The National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals have now announced a Review on the use of 1080. Reasons given are ‘increasing environmental concerns over the accidental poisoning of other animals. But deliberate poisoning of native animals by 1080 Australia wide has been officially and lawfully undertaken for many years.

In their statement, the NRA make no mention of the suffering inflicted by use of this poison. They say that a ban will be based on ‘undue hazard to human health, the environment, that it did not work, or was damaging to Australian trade’ and further….’we make decisions based on science – fairly dispassionately’.

Is 1080 'Scientific'?

There is nothing scientific about the use of 1080 – or any other lethal means of population control. In nearly all cases a species is targeted for death because of the economic or political imperatives of a government or industry. Clearly it would be better for the ecology, for native animals (including native birds) for domestic animals and for humans, if such substances were not released into the environment. Poisoning is not a scientific or even efficient means of controlling populations. The sudden removal of a large number of animals merely creates ‘spaces’ and the influx of others of the same species or the survival of the young quickly fills them.

Does 1080 Work?

In Tasmania, 1080 has been used for 50 years to kill wallabies and the wallabies are still there. In all States, 1080 has been used to kill non-native (feral) animals and the feral animals are still there.

Is 1080 Dangerous?

1080 has been banned in Brazil since 1982 because of its danger to humans. ‘1080 has an effect on either or both the cardiovascular and nervous systems in all aspects, producing heart contractions, arrhythmia’s and convulsive seizures. The dangerous dose for humans is 0.5-2mg/Kg.’ 1080 is also banned in most States of the USA.

Does 1080 Save Native Animals?

It is not scientific, or even truthful, to claim that poisoning non-native (feral) animals will ‘save’ native animals. The demise of species in Australia, as in other countries, is overwhelmingly the consequence of the destruction of habitat and wholesale clearing of land, over-grazing by sheep and cattle, pollution and modern methods of agriculture.

It is not scientific, dispassionate, or for the long term benefit of Australia, that farmers are permitted to run enormous herds of sheep and cattle, despite their proven damage to the land and contribution to extinction of species and then to add to the damage by laying 1080 baits to poison native and non-native animals.