Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Its not game

Kangaroos are an iconic and much loved symbol of Australia.
Admired for their unique appearance and fascinating behaviour, they are a lure for tourists from across the globe who delight at seeing the kangaroo hop across the outback or gaze calmly at passersby from under the shade of a eucalypt.

However, a lucrative multi-million dollar meat and skin industry, the perception that kangaroos are a ‘renewable resource’ and the labelling of these native animals as a ‘pest’ has resulted in the largest massacre of land-based wildlife on the planet.[1] During the ten year period from 1997 to 2007, over 33 million kangaroos and wallabies were lawfully killed for commercial purposes in Australia. The quota for 2008 was set at approximately 3.6 million and for 2009 it is almost 4 million. These figures do not include quotas for non-commercial purposes including pest control programs and recreational hunting.[2]

This slaughter causes tremendous suffering to kangaroos and may threaten the long term survival of a number of Australia’s large mammals that have spent more than a million years adapting to the rugged Australian environment.[3]

Kangaroos are social animals who live in large groups called mobs. There are in total 45 species of kangaroos and wallabies.[4] Mothers and joeys (young kangaroos) form close bonds and communicate with each other using unique calls.[5]

According to one source, joeys are “extremely playful. When they exit the pouch they will hop in circuits around their mother or dash off and back at full speed. En route they may bat at shrubs and trees and return to their stoic mother and give her a clip on the ears.” Older male kangaroos engage in boxing matches and cooperate to exercise fighting skills.[6]

Kangaroos can also form close relationships with humans. For example, a Victorian farmer claims that a kangaroo saved his life by ‘barking like a dog’ and alerting his wife when he was knocked unconscious by a falling tree branch.[7] In another story, a kangaroo became so attached to her human companions that she would sit on the couch watching TV and stand at the breakfast table expecting a bowl of cereal.[8]

Cruel treatment

The Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare concluded in its 1988 report into the commercial and non-commercial killing of kangaroos that, “To some extent, cruelty to kangaroos has become institutionalised through the system of kangaroo management.”[9]

Because kangaroos are shot in the wild and at night, when they are most active, the cruelty associated with the slaughter of kangaroos is largely hidden from the public eye. Some of the major issues of cruelty include:

Non-fatal injuries

While shooters are required by the relevant Codes of Practice[10] to aim to shoot a kangaroo in the brain and therefore achieve an instantaneous death,[11] many and variable factors affect the ability of a shooter to achieve this including: impaired vision due to darkness and distance, changeable weather conditions, the fact that a kangaroo’s head is a very small target, unexpected movements of kangaroos who are ‘jumpy’ from continually being shot at and the skill and experience of the individual shooter.[12]

Non-fatal body shots are an unavoidable part of the industry and cause horrific and painful injuries. The Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare concluded in 1988 that, “Even the best marksman cannot maintain a perfect record of clean kills. There will always be some kangaroos which suffer wounds from ill-placed shots.”[13] It is estimated that each year 100,000 kangaroos shot for commercial purposes are not shot in the head. It is not known how many kangaroos shot for non-commercial purposes suffer a similarly inhumane death.[14] The RSPCA Australia reviewed the Code of Practice in 2002 and recommended that it include a condition to stop the shooting of females who are carrying pouch young.[15] This it believes is the only way to stop the potential of cruelty to the pouch young.[16] This recommendation was not taken up in the 2008 revision of the Code of Practice.[17]

A vivid picture of the types of injuries that occur 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 unrecognizable 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.”[18]

And the call it a "game"...

Information taken from the

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