In the darkness of the night, Australia’s most iconic species is being hunted in the largest commercial slaughter of land-based wildlife on the planet.
Killing Australia’s Most Iconic Species: Written by Natalie Kyriacou, Director of My Green World
It sits atop the Australian flag, and is recognized globally as a quintessentially Australian species; the kangaroo has entrenched itself deeply into the rich fabric of Australian culture. Yet, each night, shrouded in the darkness of the remote Australian outback, these iconic species’ are being maimed and killed. While families of kangaroos graze peacefully in the night, a blinding spotlight from a vehicle will pierce through the darkness, before a flurry of gunshots echoes throughout the bush.
The Overpopulation Myth
The commercial hunting of Australia’s treasured national icon is an embarrassingly cruel chapter in this nation’s recent history. Wild kangaroos are shot for meat, leather, and to protect grazing land for sheep and cattle.
Every year, the industry goes into overdrive trying to sell the idea that kangaroo is the true-blue Aussie meat. This industry continues to profit enormously from the misperception that kangaroos are a hugely overpopulated pest animal, leading the kangaroo to be culled at an alarming rate.
In reality, there is very little evidence to back this “overpopulation” argument up.
Kangaroos are a slow-growing, slow-reproducing animal, and their population growth is limited by the fact that females only reproduce roughly once per year, with most species having a high infant mortality rate, particularly during drought season. Australian Senator Lee Rhiannon says, “it is biologically impossible for kangaroo populations to ‘explode’”, with kangaroo population growth sitting at 3-10% in good years, with up to 60% crashes during drought.
While it may be true that there are large kangaroo populations in select parts of Australia, in other areas they are scarce, and population numbers fluctuate a great deal within a few short years.
Justifying Kangaroo Slaughter
Kangaroos are the victims of the largest land-based wildlife slaughter in the world. Every year the commercial kangaroo industry kills roughly 1 to 6 million kangaroos for their meat and skins which is distributed globally.
Politicians and pro-industry advocates continue to perpetuate the myth that killing kangaroos is necessary to control their population and protect agriculture. This propaganda, unfortunately, has gained widespread public and governmental support for the commercial kangaroo industry, which, despite its claims, is an industry driven by high profits and low welfare measures.
Killing in the Night
The kangaroo industry is grossly underregulated, largely unmonitored and built on the suffering of Australia’s most beloved native animal. Furthermore, the industry has managed to escape the scrutiny levelled at many of Australia’s other meat industries because it is virtually impossible to get a look at the killing. Unlike most animals killed for consumption, who are pre-stunned and slaughtered in abattoirs, kangaroos are shot in rural areas, from long distances, and in complete darkness.
A 2009 report, ‘A Shot in the Dark, A Report on Kangaroo Harvesting’ concludes that the realities of the kangaroo industry reveal “extensive and alarmingly unhygienic practices, unacceptable suffering of young kangaroos and the manufacture of false hope that kangaroo harvesting will alleviate environmental degradation in rural areas.”
The National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes stipulates that adult kangaroos are to be shot in the brain, causing immediate death. However, a field survey undertaken by the RSPCA in 2000 and 2002 revealed that this was not the case, with a significant percentage of kangaroos left maimed, bleeding out slowly and painfully.
Emotional Lives of the Kangaroo
The important social structures of kangaroo families is effectively dismantled by commercial and non-commercial shooting. Kangaroos are extremely social and family orientated, and have been observed to suffer considerable trauma when one of their mob is injured or killed. The large males and females play a crucial role in the cohesion of the mob, as well as the protection of younger kangaroos. When these dominant kangaroos are killed, the mob loses its leaders, causing irreversible long-term damage to the future survival and welfare of the mob.
Ends Justify the Means?
Contrary to popular belief, Australia is not swarming with kangaroos, and should be very careful about blanket statements of plague kangaroo populations, because it certainly does not represent the overall picture. The legitimacy of the justifications presented by kangaroo industry advocates is questionable, at best, with perceptions of kangaroos as a pest species being highly inflated. However, irrespective of widespread propaganda, the fundamental basis for which Australia carries out its night-time slaughter of its most beloved species is cruel, unnecessary and shrouded in secrecy.