International Campaigns are Vital... Viva! the kangaroo

When Viva! recently again exposed the conditions of factory farmed pigs, mothers incarcerated, piglets trapped in cages and the awful abuse of these wonderful animals - no one accused Viva! of being speciesist. But when we fight for the kangaroos, a tiny minority voice that accusation. It is they, therefore, who are being speciesist.

My view is that all life matters. It may help in this debate to understand the reason Viva! has long fought for kangaroos. Not so long after Viva! formed, kangaroo (and other so-called exotic meats) were introduced in almost all UK supermarkets. The kangaroo industry was ferocious in its marketing attempt to get the British public to accept wild animals being killed for meat and skin as the norm. They paid Tesco, for example, for prime shelf space. I collaborated with Australian wildlife and animal rights groups and Viva! launched a highly successful campaign – we did not want the world’s wildlife to be viewed as a commodity. Each time wildlife has been treated in this way, it has been disastrous for the species and obviously for the individual animals.

Kangaroos are incredible animals, perfectly evolved for Australia’s landscape and climate. Tragically, the Australian government not only condones but actively supports the largest wildlife land massacre on the planet. Like all governments, they put profit first, and life – well, you can see where that comes on their agenda. Having witnessed kangaroo slaughter and seen the baby joey of a shot mother have his head crushed, and debated on ABC (a major TV channel in Australia) with a man who shot 100,000 kangaroos for meat (as well as cats ‘for fun’ in his words) – I feel passionately, as I’m sure you do, that this massacre must end. I also feel passionately that the slaughter of all animals must end. Viva!’s focus is on animals exploited and killed for their flesh, eggs or fluids. As you know, we campaign on all these issues and for all species abused in this way. We also campaign on all vegan issues, including health and the saving of the environment.

It won’t surprise you that Viva! monitors its campaigns and it is extremely heartening that two of the most successful campaigns in terms of bringing meat eaters to vegetarianism (and then of course they are educated about veganism) are our live horse export and kangaroo campaigns. Apart from the issue of saving the lives of kangaroos, and changing people’s attitudes to animals – these campaigns help us reach those who consume meat, fish, eggs and dairy and to educate and change them. Viva!’s job is of course to create and nurture vegetarians and vegans – our focus is on reaching the consumers of animals and changing them.

Bizarrely, on occasion someone throws up that the kangaroo campaign is racist or xenophobic, As Tim Barford of VegFest has recently done. This is highly insulting to the many people who work on the campaign and the incredible support from the thousands of grass roots activists in the UK and across the globe. Tim’s stance is also not supported by the wildlife and animal groups in Australia who collaborate with us. Obviously, when kangaroo meat is sold in the UK – it is the UK groups (in this case, Viva!) and British people who must take a stand and ask the retailers to stop selling it. Criticising this action as xenophobic, ie it is wrong to campaign against another country’s abuse is incredibly small minded. We are one world, mother Earth does not make the distinction between Brits and Australians; Kenyans and the Polish. Mother Earth and the life she supports, just wants help. We are all Earthlings; no one should tell us we don’t have the right, or that we are mistaken, to campaign on an international scale.

Imagine taking this attitude to its logical conclusion. It would mean Amnesty International are xenophobic to attack the North Korean government for the torture of people who dare to speak out against them. It would mean that people outside of India should not criticise the Indian government for the killing of tigers, and we should never have joined in Nelson Mandela’s campaigns to change the South African government’s policy on apartheid.

And if we are wrong to highlight facts such as Australia has the worst wildlife record in the world in terms of species extinctions, then that is a terrifying attack on freedom of speech, in a world that desperately needs everyone to shout out about cruelty and exploitation no matter where it happens. Again, Tim Barford says that we ‘demonise’ the Australian government by mentioning their wildlife record and he sounds rather like he is being paid by the Kangaroo Industry Association (of course he isn’t). In fact, we expose the Australian government’s policies and continuation of subsidising and encouraging  a bloody and cruel massacre.

Viva! also criticises the UK government which condones the relentless abuse of animals. Again, by using Tim’s argument, we are unpatriotic. We are fighting one of the biggest industries in the world. Nothing more would they love than for our own side to start saying do not campaign on an international scale – do not campaign if you are criticising governments. That is self evidently a ludicrous position.

Viva! is proud to campaign for all animals abused and exploited for their flesh, eggs and milk. That is what we are about. That is why you support us. And we will continue to help Britain, Poland – and yes, the world given the resources – go vegan.

My PS to this blog is that if you arn't aware - Viva!'s kangaroo campaign succeeded in persuading all supermarkets to withdraw kangaroo and other 'exotic' meats in the 1990s and '00's. Tesco, Morrisons, Lidl and Iceland reintroduced it recently; due to Viva! and our wonderful supporters - both Tesco and Morrisons have withdrawn it. We have also persuaded Nike and Adidas to stop using kangaroo skins and encouraged their growth of synthetic football boots. We continue to campaign for kangaroos and all animals abused for their body parts.