Cruelty to Kangaroos
The following statement is typical of the Australian government and multiple retailers that sold kangaroo meat in the UK and still sell it abroad:
Retailer: " ....the sale of kangaroo meat in no way causes undue stress to the animals".
Below, this report examines different aspects of animal welfare in relation to the kangaroo slaughter, in answer to statements released by Sainsbury's when they sold the meat and the Australian High Commission, UK.
Retailer: "The professional shooters involved in the cull are licensed and fully trained. They must comply with strict government laws demanding a code of conduct."
Kangaroos are supposed to be killed by licensed shooters who are supposed to understand a Code of Practice governing the killing. The statement above implies that all kangaroos killed for meat/skin are shot by professional shooters. This is not the case. In fact, according to the Australian Wildlife Protection Council many shooters are itinerant part-timers. A pro-industry report confirms this, stating: "shooters are almost always self-employed" and they are mainly part-time because kangaroo products are "low-value". (32)
In addition, the illegal trade supplies a substantial number of animals for meat/skin.
The Code the AHC and retailers refer to is the 'Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos' (31). However - the reason it is called a code is because it is precisely that. It is a guideline for shooters to follow but lacks any clout in law. The National Kangaroo Campaign, Australia state:
"The code is a voluntary code only and no provision exists in it for permits/licences to be suspended in the event of failure to adhere to the code."
The code falls down badly in many areas and has done nothing to lessen the concern for the level of cruelty to kangaroos. For example:
The Australian High Commission, London, claims; "the Government code demands that joeys are put down immediately and humanely".
Mother kangaroos often have a joey in pouch and a joey at foot - neither can survive without her. The code states that pouch young of a shot female 'must also be killed. Decapitation with a sharp instrument in very small hairless young or a properly executed heavy blow to destroy the brain in larger young...or by a shot to the brain' must be used. When I was in Australia, amateur hunters admitted to cases of joeys being used as footballs; to stamping on joeys heads (but not killing them); to using crowbars or bashing their heads against a wheel brace or just leaving them to die.
(Even for those joeys which are dragged out of their mother's pouch and killed according to the code's recommendations - I hardly think that the Commission's description of 'put down' conjures up the reality.)
The code does not even make a reference to how older joeys should be dealt with! They are completely dependant on their mothers for milk, warmth in the cold winter nights, protection from predation and emotional support. Without their mothers, they are left to die of starvation or cold or from predation. (25)
Dr John Auty BVSc has studied the killing of kangaroos in all Australian States. He firmly maintains that:
"Shooters often have a thorough contempt of the law and the Code. They commit cruelty on a regular basis."
Dr Auty's credentials to speak on this subject are far more persuasive than Sainsbury's. He has post graduate qualifications in veterinary science and was Chief Agronomist in the Northern Territory; Assistant Director of the Australian Bureau of Animal Health and has worked in the outback for many years where he studied kangaroos.
Viva!'s research shows that the killing of joeys is obscene and unavoidably cruel.
Other failures of the code to protect kangaroos include the fact that:
Some firearms used are unsuitable e.g. shotguns and small rifles when used on wallabies are unlikely to cause instant death.
Laws relating to the killing of kangaroos vary between states and some laws contradict the code. For example, in Western Australia there is an open season where shooters can operate without a licence and do not have to stick to the code.
Most of all, wildlife authorities do not have the ability to enforce the code. There are not enough staff to cover the vast distances and they rely on the shooters to keep them informed.
Source: National Kangaroo Campaign, Australia
Most telling is the code itself, which states: "No matter how carefully the shooter aims, some kangaroos will not be killed outright." (31)