melbourne vegan

Jaclyn McCosker

Blogger, social entrepreneur & freelance copywriter

Australia

Aboriginal elders oppose kangaroo meat, saying “We are not into mass slaughter.”

Aboriginal elders oppose kangaroo meat, saying “We are not into mass slaughter.”

Killing one of Australia’s most well-loved and gentle creatures is an absolute ethical blunder. Time and again, horrific kangaroo shooting practices are exposed, and yet monitoring and regulation continues to fall flat, with no federal attempts to protect our wildlife from being shot down in their native homelands.

Many try to argue that kangaroo is an ethical alternative to other meats, is a good economic opportunity for Australia, or even that it’s a cultural experience since our First People traditionally hunted kangaroo. Unfortunately, every single one of these arguments falls flat. You need to think beyond your tastebuds for this one.

Tradition

The Australian Alliance for Native Animals Survival (AAFNAS) are clear, they are offended by the slaughter and export of our native kangaroos. The AAFNAS is a group of Indigenous Australians advocating for the preservation of our native wildlife, headed by President Uncle Eric. In 2011 the group launched an injunction to prevent the international export of kangaroo meat.

Uncle Eric says, ”We have harvested animals but we have only ever taken what we needed. We are not into mass slaughter. Before they even contemplate giving licences to anyone to kill our wildlife, they should consult the Aboriginal people.” He also stresses that Indigenous people have a spiritual connection with the kangaroo, and that the animal has never caused white man harm.

For tens of thousands of years, Indigenous Australians hunted kangaroo when necessary for survival. One thing they have never practiced or condoned is culling or mass slaughter. Renowned for their deep attachment to their country and an unprecedented ability to nurture their environment, traditional Indigenous values oppose taking more than what is needed. Their culture was one of subsistence and respect, and the slaughter of 3-5 million kangaroos per year is absolutely not out of respect for our country or our first people.

The only responsible thing to do here is to welcome AAFNAS’ traditional knowledge as the authority on kangaroo sustainability, and strictly limit the slaughter of such a culturally important icon.

Ethics

Before 2002, commercial sale of kangaroo meat was virtually unheard of. But during a particularly severe drought that year, the NSW government proposed a cull to reduce the competition between our local wildlife and foreign livestock. It was during this push to make way for cattle and sheep that hunters decided to cash in on the suffering of our hoppy friends, and a culture of killing and eating our national emblem was born. This sits wrong with me on every level, as I don’t believe killing native animals to make way for the killing of other animals is at all justifiable.

Treatment of animals is not up for negotiation based off how ample certain species are. Whether there’s 10 kangaroos or 10 billion kangaroos in our wild, not a single one deserves to be shot at night (when hunting occurs), from a distance, with a huge margin of error and no regulation on the killing field.

Roos are repeatedly trouted in the media as “overpopulated” and “pests”, yet actual figures directly contest these claims and suggest they live in relatively normal numbers. The expansion of humans into kangaroo territory has triggered rhetoric that they are an over-abundant pest. Something a little common sense can debunk!

Thinkk – the official think tank for kangaroos – found that estimates of the competition between roos and livestock were grossly overestimated and in fact rarely damage the yield of a grazing field, so they have challenged the legality of culling kangaroos with this reasoning. The group firmly believe the public are being deliberately misled about the numbers of kangaroos around farming areas. They propose that the environmental issues and projected economic benefits have been exaggerated to allow certain people to turn a profit by introducing a new market of meat.

Thinkk believe arguments of sustainability are completely unfounded. Since kangaroos are lorded as the sustainable meat as they are not factory farmed, many environmentally minded meat eaters are convinced they’re doing a good deed by choosing kangaroo on occasion. However, Thinkk figures found that if all meat eaters were to switch to even just one meal of kangaroo per week, populations would be devastated.The population of kangaroos in permitted kill zones are around 20 million, almost matching the human population of Australia. Thinkk estimates are consistent with data showing that kangaroo populations depleted 50% between 2010 and 2012 alone.

If environmentalists were to cut out all but kangaroo meat, kangaroo farming would be essential to meet the demand, and this in itself would be in violation for the reasoning behind consuming kangaroo!

Now, this is all before even considering the horrendous torture of kangaroos hunted for their meat, which is bizarrely legal! “The Code” states that commercial kangaroo hunters must shoot for the brain. A mighty high expectation of any marksman! The industry has self-reported a 96% headshot success rate, meaning they claim to ineffectively shoot 120,000 kangaroos per year. However, the recent Thinkk report estimates the true number is somewhere over 1 million missed shots (8x the reported numbers). While you may be told your kangaroo steak came from a happy, free kangaroo, the likelihood is they died slow and agonising deaths. Commercial hunters are legally required to track the animals and finish the kill, as well as to kill any dependent young. However, coherence to this code is not monitored.

There is no supervision of the killing, no auditing of numbers shot versus numbers killed, and no incentive to comply with the code. The industry is self-regulated, and it’s laws are outside the typical protections we award native wildlife. And within the self-regulated industry, compliance to the rules are dependent on the good nature of the hunters. It is well known that the hunters lie about the number of roos they shoot, where they hunt and the species of the animals they kill. Can all sides agree the regulating system is incompetent as it stands?

The law also allows for one particularly heinous crime, that sounds positively medieval.In Australia, the recommended method of killing joeys is to crush their skulls. Instead of requesting that hunters leave mothers and joeys be, they recommend using pipes or crow bars to murder the babies in the mothers pouch or at their feet. In Canada, the clubbing of seal cubs is considered irreprehensible and unjustifiable – yet the same activity is going on in our backyard without the international attention. There is no other animal we allow this kind of treatment towards, so I am in absolute disbelief this level of brutality is allowed to continue towards a national treasure and well-loved tourist attraction. We have absolutely failed our kangaroos.

I’d ask anybody that feigns interest in choosing a sustainable or ethical alternative to red meat, to keep dead animals off the plate altogether. Kangaroos are not farmed, but they are certainly not protected by animal welfare laws, and they are absolutely not great enough in number to sustain this level of slaughter.

Economics

Right up until June 2015, the only economic figures of the profits of the kangaroo meat industry were self-reported. Much of the figures are thought to be extended from early success in the first few years of export from 2007-2012, before Russia banned the import of kangaroo meat with animal welfare concerns. (Yeah, Russia had concerns about our animal welfare. It’s that bad.)

The figures put forward by the industry and it’s advocates have been debunked. For example, The Conversation found estimates of 4,000 potential jobs in the industry were between 5 and 11 times the real numbers!!! I’d call that an overestimation! The Conversation estimate the number is below 400 Australians.

Additionally, projected figures find that to achieve a noticeable 3% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions that would justify the ecological benefits, we would need to replace livestock at a volume of 5x the existing population of kangaroos in legal hunting areas. We simply don’t have kangaroos in large enough numbers to be of benefit to the environment or the economy. Kangaroos can’t replace other species of meat.

The infrastructure investment to drastically improve the non-existent hygiene standards, and the marketing campaign to regain Russia as a vital export partner limit the financial viability of the industry.

There just isn’t evidence to support the promised economic benefits to Australia. There is nothing to justify damaging our international reputation and our relations with Indigenous advocates for the limited profit of a few hundred people. Australia does not benefit.

Even one incorrectly slaughtered kangaroo is too many. Not a single roo deserves that fate. It’s once again cruelty that serves no purpose but to satiate a few tastebuds. Kangatarianism is certainly not a good choice for the environment.

I’d challenge you to name a wild-harvested species the world has not over-exploited. Earth is in a stage of mass extinction driven by human consumption. For once, let’s choose to draw a line and save at least one species from our path of destruction.

Respect our nation’s elders and leave your Aussie mates off your plate.

Where do you get your protein?

Where do you get your protein?