This January 26th, Australians are being encouraged to "Celebrate what's great' about their country, but campaigning animal welfare group Viva! counters that millions of Australians will have nothing to celebrate: the indigenous kangaroo population.
In 2005 alone 3.9 million adult kangaroos have been earmarked for slaughter for their meat and skins. Baby joeys - worthless to the industry - are ripped from their dead mothers' pouches and bludgeoned, decapitated or simply abandoned to die of starvation and neglect. Australia has recently suffered one of the worst droughts on record and bush fires have decimated kangaroo numbers, yet the kangaroo industry continues to kill unabated. Kangaroo skins are often turned into football boots for companies such as Adidas " whose Predator boots are sold in the UK, and are worn by David Beckham.
Viva! has recently joined forces with the Australian Wildlife Protection Council and launched a campaign, "Australia's Hidden Shame', urging potential tourists to think twice about planning a trip "down under' in light of the annual slaughter of millions of kangaroos for their meat and skins.
The kangaroo is second only to the Statue of Liberty as the most recognised tourist symbol in the world*, andlast year Australia launched its biggest ever push for visitors with a $360 million (Aus) promotional campaign with a logo featuring the iconic marsupial. Seeing mobs of kangaroos in the wild is a must for most visitors but the chances of them achieving this are diminishing by the day. "Many an outback tourist will lament that of the few kangaroos they saw, the majority were roadkills', says Dr David Croft, University of New South Wales.
Former kangaroo shooter, David Nichols, dismissed those who promote the slaughter: "Not only have they got it all wrong' he says, "they are doing the "bush' a gross disservice in taking peanuts for a bloodied outback instead of a fortune in tourism. Their stupidity never ceases to amaze me.'
Viva! campaigner Justin Kerswell says: "Australia is a fantastic country, but behind Australia Day's glitzy celebrations the country harbours a bloody, hidden secret. The Australian Government and tourism industries are cynically use the image of a kangaroo to attract international visitors, whilst butchering millions of them every year out of the view of tourists. Not only is this dishonest, it's the ultimate betrayal of this much loved icon. International visitors are being hoodwinked into believing that the Australian Government values the kangaroo, little knowing that the only value they place on them is the blood money their meat and skins bring.
"We are calling on people thinking of travelling to Australia to consider whether they really want to visit a country that harbours the largest massacre of land animals in the world today. We are also encouraging them to write to Government and tourism bodies in Australia to express their concerns.
"We are also calling on the Australian Government to give the kangaroo population something to celebrate " and end the largest massacre of land animals on the planet today before it's too late.'
Contact: Justin Kerswell on 0117 944 1000
Australia's Hidden Shame: http://www.savethekangaroo.com/tourism/
* Kangaroos in the Marketing of Australia. CRC Sustainable Tourism, Australia.
Notes for Editors: Images of kangaroos and kangaroo shooting are available from Viva!.