Voiceless is calling for an end to the legalised cruelty of the commercial kangaroo trade

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By Emmanuel Giuffre, legal counsel of Voiceless, the animal protection institute 

Many individuals – both in Australia and internationally – would be appalled if they knew of the legalised cruelty inflicted upon Australia’s national icon, the kangaroo. While similar wildlife trades, such as the Canadian seal hunt, have attracted global criticism and condemnation due to their brutality, the kangaroo hunt is left relatively unchallenged to continue its cruel trade.

Voiceless, the animal protection institute is calling on individuals to take a stand against the legalised cruelty being committed against Australian kangaroos in the name of profit. It is a promise not to buy into kangaroo cruelty and to join Voiceless in calling for our politicians to put an end to this trade.

> Take the pledge, and learn more about the brutality of the commercial kangaroo industry, here: https://www.voiceless.org.au/kangaroo-takethepledge

The commercial kangaroo industry has been identified as the largest commercial slaughter of land-based wildlife on the planet.[1] Over the past 30 years, an annual average of approximately three million wild kangaroos have been commercially killed and processed by the kangaroo industry.

This figure does not include pouch young or young at foot (joeys) who are killed, or who are left orphaned and subsequently die from starvation, predation or exposure, as a result of the commercial killing of female kangaroos. These joeys are treated as 
‘collateral deaths’ in the commercial kangaroo industry.

The animal welfare concerns inherent within the commercial kangaroo trade are immense.

While shooters are required by the Commercial and Non-Commercial Codes of Practice to aim to shoot a kangaroo in the brain and therefore achieve an instantaneous death, many factors affect the ability of a shooter to achieve this. Factors include impaired vision due to darkness (kangaroos are not ‘farmed’ but are killed at night in the wild, when they are most active), distance, weather conditions, the small target size of a kangaroo’s head, unexpected movements of kangaroos who are startled from being shot at, and the skill and experience of the individual shooter.[2]

Non-fatal body shots are an inevitable part of the industry, causing severe injuries to kangaroos. Chiller data, from the carcass processing locations, suggests that anywhere between 120,000 to over one million kangaroos are mis-shot annually.[3] Given authorities do not inspect kangaroos where they are killed in the field, it is impossible to know how many kangaroos are mis-shot and not taken to a chiller or processor.

A vivid picture of the types of injuries that mis-shot kangaroos can sustain is painted by the words of a former commercial kangaroo shooter:

“The mouth of a kangaroo can be blown off and the kangaroo can escape to die of shock and starvation. Forearms can be blown off, as can ears, eyes and noses. Stomachs can be hit expelling the contents with the kangaroo still alive. Backbones can be pulverized to an unrecognisable state etc. Hind legs can be shattered with the kangaroo desperately trying to get away on the other or without the use of either. To deny that this goes on is just an exercise in attempting to fool the public.”[4]

Pouch young and young at foot (joeys) are also victim to the killing of kangaroos. Female kangaroos will likely have a joey in pouch, in addition to a dependent young at foot, at any one time. As a result of the slaughter of female kangaroos, it is estimated that 800,000 joeys are killed as part of the commercial kangaroo trade.[5]

Under the Commercial and Non-Commercial Codes, shooters must search the pouch of killed female kangaroos, and ‘euthanase’ the joeys using the following prescribed methods:

  • for a small furless pouch young, a ‘single forceful blow to the base of the skull’ or ‘stunning, immediately followed by decapitation’;
  • for furred pouch young, a ‘single forceful blow to the base of the skull’; and
  • for young at foot, a ‘single shot to the brain or heart where it can be delivered accurately and in safety’.[6]

Recent research has found shooters generally leave young at foot dependent joeys to die in the field from starvation, predation or exposure. The same research also found most shooters swing pouch joeys’ heads against their trucks to kill them, a method which is highly unlikely to kill the joeys outright.[7] The researchers also describe the following method used by shooters to decapitate pouch young:

“We observed that small unfurred joeys were killed by separating the head from the body whilst the joey was still attached to the teat. This was done by holding the body in the hand and quickly flicking the head off using the thumb. Larger unfurred joeys killed by decapitation were left in the pouch and a sharp knife was used to sever the head from the body.”[8]

Voiceless’s position is that at a minimum an urgent Senate inquiry is required into the management of kangaroos.

Yet given the remoteness of the hunts, the lack of monitoring resources, and consistent reports of cruelty, it is clear that the only reasonable response is to end the trade.

> Take the pledge, and learn more about the brutality of the commercial kangaroo industry, here:https://www.voiceless.org.au/kangaroo-takethepledge

 

References

[1] Keely Boom, Dror Ben Ami, Louise Boronyak and Sophie Riley, ‘The Role of Inspections in the Commercial Kangaroo Industry’ (2013) International Journal of Rural Law and Policy 2, 1-19; Rheyda Linden, ‘Kangaroo Killing for the Flesh and Skin Trade: Neither Clean & Green, nor Sustainable’ in Maryland Wilson and David B Croft (eds), Kangaroo Myths and Realities (Australian Wildlife Protection Council, 3rd edition, 2005) 86.

[2] David Nicholls, ‘The Kangaroo – Falsely Maligned by Tradition’ in Maryland Wilson and David B Croft (eds), Kangaroos – Myths and Realities (2005) 33, 38.

[3] Ben‐Ami D, Boom K, Boronyak L, Croft D, Ramp D and Townend C, ‘The ends and means of the commercial kangaroo industry: an ecological, legal and comparative analysis’ (2011) THINKK, the Think Tank for Kangaroos (University of Technology, Sydney, Revised December 2011) 16-17.

[4] David Nicholls, ‘The Kangaroo – Falsely Maligned by Tradition’ in Maryland Wilson and David B Croft (eds), Kangaroos – Myths and Realities (2005) 38.

[5] Estimation based on ecological data and national commercial kill statistics for the period 2000-2009. This does not include the joeys killed as a consequence of non-commercial shooting. Numbers of joeys killed or left to die are not recorded. Ben‐Ami D, Boom K, Boronyak L, Townend C, Ramp D, Croft D, Bekoff M (2014) ‘The welfare ethics of the commercial killing of free-ranging kangaroos: an evaluation of the benefits and costs of the industry’, Animal Welfare 23, 5.

[6] National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes (2008) s 5.1; National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Non-commercial Purposes (2008) s 5.1.

[7] McLeod S and Sharp T, ‘Improving the humaneness of commercial kangaroo harvesting’ (2014) Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation <https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/items/13-116&gt; accessed 11 February 2016.

[8] Ibid, 20.

One Response

  1. […] Our thanks to Animal Blawg, where this post originally appeared on March 1, […]

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