Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

Under Fire

"Kangaroos are strictly protected" Australian High Commission.

Men drive though the bush in four wheel drives, searching for wild kangaroos which they illuminate with powerful searchlights. They are then shot, supposedly in the head. For many animals it is the throat or neck, leaving them struggling and still conscious when they are dragged to the truck. A kangaroo shooter of 20 years who moved to London, UK told Viva! in 1998 (and reiterated a similar quote to the London Evening Standard in 2001):

"We often shot kangaroos in the leg because it was a much easier target than the head. You hoped that it would slow them enough to find them and finish them off. That could take some time. I've seen kangaroos running with their guts spilling out.... I'm not proud of what I've done; I just wanted to tell you that the kangaroo industry is lying."

Some animals are still alive when their leg is sliced open, a hook is inserted through the gash and they are hauled up onto the truck. Their throat/chest is then slit. The shooter stops from time to time and guts the kangaroos, the head, limbs and tail are chopped off and discarded. The skin is left on until the dead animal reaches the processing works. (32) The carcasses are supposed to be delivered to a chiller, usually at a local town depot before high temperatures help further rotting. They are then taken to a processing plant where skins are pulled off and taken to a tannery to make leather and the carcasses butchered for meat. What is left of Australia's national emblem goes to make fertiliser.

Even for an experienced shooter, the small kangaroo head is a difficult target, especially at night with the dazzle of spotlights distorting vision. In 1985 the Australian RSPCA carried out a survey into the kangaroo industry, paid for by government. The RSPCA warn that their results were distorted because "the shooters volunteering information were considered the cleanest in the industry". Even so, they found that "at least 15% of kangaroos killed commercially die inhumanely". They say the true figure is much higher.

The Australian RSPCA said in 1997:

"The RSPCA opposes the killing of kangaroos for economic purposes...the incidence of cruelty is too high to be justified...we are campaigning against the quota system and the industry it sustains". (20)

Amazingly, the kangaroo industry often states that the RSPCA supports the commercial kill. In 1999, Peter Barber, Director of the Victorian State RSPCA put the record straight. He said:

"In its 1985 report, the RSPCA voiced its concern over the high incidence of inhumane kills. For some self-promoting reason several people have interpreted the report as an endorsement of the kangaroo industry. This is completely untrue, in fact, absurd."

"The RSPCA has steadfastly opposed the quota system and the killing of kangaroos for economic purposes. The industry has not identified that any improvements have been made since the RSPCA report was written and, in any case, as with other self-regulated industries, proper regulation and standards cannot be guaranteed." (22)

If a shooter is a poor shot it simply means he uses a few extra rounds of ammunition, using living animals for target practice, many of which will limp off into the bush to die a painful death. In Britain, the use of shot guns with a wide spread of shot, have been consistently decried as an undesirable way of killing foxes by the hunting lobby. Yet in Australia, the single shot of a rifle is portrayed as a humane and infallible method of killing kangaroos.

One thing is certain, such a method of killing farmed animals and their young carried out under similar conditions would not be tolerated in the UK and would be seen as what it is - an animal welfare outrage.

Video footage filmed by IFAW Australia shows a middle-aged man, an 'experienced' unlicensed but commercial killer, and his son of about 10 years old, killing kangaroos and joeys. It is evidence of just one night's slaughter and contains numerous instances of blatant cruelty:

1. The majority of kangaroos shot are hit in the throat and do not die instantly.

2. The child stands on the face of a wounded, conscious kangaroo as the shooter cuts into its leg in order to place a hook through it.

3. A kangaroo is shot in the throat, hung onto the truck by a hind leg and the truck is driven away with the animal still gasping for breath.

4. A joey is pulled out of the pouch of his dying mother. The shooter comments: "You'd better turn the camera off," as he stamps on the baby's head. The child then also casually twists his foot on its head but the joey is still alive and moaning after these crude attempts to kill it.

6. The shooter allows a pouched young to escape into the bush where it will certainly die.

7. The shooter boasts about shooting pelicans, a protected species of wallaby and tries to shoot at a moving fox. And so it continues....

(For a copy of the footage, contact Viva!.)

The shooters may work through most of the night. If the killing is for skin only, often the case in Queensland, the shooters stops from time to time to skin the animals, leaving the carcass. He may kill over 100 kangaroos per night. In NSW and WA, shooting only for skins is illegal and the number of kangaroos slaughtered in one night is limited by what the truck can carry, usually 50. (32)