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Kangaroo: The Other Grey Meat

A question to any West Australian readers: Which kangaroo was most commonly targeted by hunters in the mid to late 1920's? ... Well I'm being a bit unfair, the answer isn't a kangaroo at all as the answer is the western brush (or black gloved) wallaby. Around that period western brush wallaby skins were exported in higher numbers than red kangaroo or western grey skins. Which species is exploited most commonly these days? Well I can tell you it isn't the western brush wallaby, they are now listed as near-vulnerable. To the vast majority of Australians living in large cities the answer doesn't seem to matter anyway, the generic term "kangaroo" is often used when discussing anything macropod related. Kangaroo numbers being in "plague proportions" or the labelling of them as pests appears to apply to all of our larger marsupials.

Attempts to overcome Australians' reluctance to eat kangaroo meat


Red joey at foot

Over the last ten years or so the kangaroo industry, state and federal governments and organisations such as the FATE program have tried to shift public perception of the kangaroo image from pest to sustainable resource. They appear to have had very limited success. In doing this they have continued the tradition of grouping all of the exploited species under the kangaroo banner. Australians have been very reluctant to come to the party when it comes to eating kangaroos themselves, maybe it's got something to do with us viewing roo meat as something that is only fit for the dog. So what is the dog actually eating? Is it euro chunks? Diced eastern grey? Maybe minced Bennetts wallaby? The marketing of kangaroo meat for human consumption continues this trend. Why do you think that could be? Maybe it is easier for us to stomach roo meat when we don't have to put a face to it ... a sort of miscellaneous meat. Nevertheless a lot of us are still reluctant to dine on our national symbol. Overseas markets for kangaroo meat are notoriously unstable, for example : the Russian ban on roo meat imports last year, this may however be offset by the recent Chinese decision in favour of the kangaroo industry.

Eating kangaroo compatible with vegetarianism?

Of course there are many Australians who choose to be vegetarian/vegan. Often this choice of lifestyle is made based on several factors including personal health, animal welfare or viewing this diet as being more ecologically sustainable particularly in a warming climate. I would have thought that once an individual had made the choice to stop eating meat that right should be respected, it's not the choice for everybody but with the earth population rapidly approaching 7 billion people surely vegetarianism is not something we should discourage. To those involved in promoting the human consumption of kangaroo however, vegetarians represent a potential market. This was evident in the publication of an article in the Sydney Morning Herald last week when the term "kangatarian" was coined. The basic message is that vegetarians with animal welfare or environmental concerns should find kangaroo meat quite acceptable. This is due to the fact that kangaroos are killed humanely in the field and their presence on the Australian landscape ticks all the right environmental boxes. Surely this advertisement is the work of the Australian kangaroo industry, who else would recklessly attempt to add roo meat to the diet of a vegetarian? Well the university lecturer in this advertorial is Peter Ampt, the manager of the Future of Australia's Threatened Ecosystems program (FATE). The FATE program was the initiative of Professor Mike Archer whose book "Going Native" (now out-of-print) outlined the programs aims. Central to these aims was the phasing out of current agricultural/pastoral practices in favour of those utilising native animals and plants. The centrepiece (or stumbling block) for the program is the sustainable harvesting of kangaroos. Backing up Peter Ampt's claims is Sarah Doornbos, who is also involved in the FATE program though no mention is made of this.

The evidence contradicts claims of humane killing


Grey inpouch joey

It seems that a key part of their argument revolves around the humane killing of kangaroos as opposed to traditional livestock. This same tactic comes up again and again, a single bullet to the head is a clean, humane way of killing an animal. No argument there assuming that is always the case, the problem is that it's not that simple. Female kangaroos have joeys and those joeys depend on them for survival. The Code of practice for the humane shooting of kangaroos (or "the code") instructs kangaroo shooters to kill in-pouch joeys by crushing their skull or decapitation. In the field this equates to smashing their head against an object such as a towbar or just simply stomping on their skull. It is not only in-pouch joeys that are dependent on their mothers. For about a third of the time you can call a kangaroo a "joey" they have permanently exited the pouch, however they still require milk, protection and guidance from their mother. These little guys are the joeys-at-foot or ex-pouch joeys, they are the ones that stick their heads in their mother's pouch to obtain milk. This a key stage in the development of a kangaroo that usually lasts 120 – 220 days. The code directs shooters to kill these joeys by a single shot to the head, however these joeys tend to flee in terror when their mothers are shot. As kangaroos do not "adopt" other joeys in the wild their prospects for survival are very poor, most will likely starve to death or be taken by predators. How this can be classified as humane by Samantha Vine, Peter Ampt and Sarah Doornpos is to say the least, puzzling. I shudder to think what would come under the inhumane category, perhaps death by iron maiden?

Official Statistics

Of course the industry itself will counter this argument by claiming 80% of kangaroos shot are males. State kangaroo management data does not substantiate this figure. For example in New South Wales the long term average is 66.9%, in Queensland the figure appears to be somewhere in the mid 70's and in Western Australia the figure is close to 50%. There have even been years in WA when the figure has dropped as low as 47% such as 1993.

Scientific Debate?

The timing of this advertorial coincides with the proposed European Union ban on kangaroo product imports. John Kelly, the executive director of the Australian Kangaroo Industry has been busy defending the industry using claims such as the one mentioned above. He declares that this issue will ultimately be decided using scientific arguments. It is interesting that this scientific approach consists of misleading statistics and an online petition supporting the kangaroo harvest, John Kelly is the number one signatory and who is the organiser ... ? Professor Michael Archer.

The fate of a joey-at-foot also applies when its mother has been killed in a vehicle collision. A small joey may be observed returning to its mother several times on the roadside after her death. It makes for a very distressing scene, the joey will ususally attempt to wake the mother up by touching her and/or making sounds and may attempt to enter the pouch. If the mother had fallen victim to a kangaroo shooter, all that could be left behind are her head, forelimbs, tail, entrails, a discarded in-pouch joey and a lot of blood. Of course the skin-only shooter will leave behind the entire body ... minus skin of course ... what becomes of the dependant joey-at-foot returning to its mother now? This type of treatment would be unacceptable in the domestic livestock industry, how can anyone possibly classify the shooting of kangaroos as humane? In WA alone 30,000 joeys-at-foot were orphaned by the actions of commercial kangaroo shooters in 2007, that's about 80 joeys every night of the year. West Australian kangaroo kill figures are dwarfed by states such as Queensland where shooters killed over one and a half million kangaroos in the same year. It's very convenient for FATE or the kangaroo industry to withhold this information from those trying to make an informed decision on roo meat. The inhumane treatment of joeys occurs at night and often in very remote areas, visual footage is a rare thing. It's a shame that people such as those interviewed in this advertorial believe their agenda trumps any concerns about the kangaroo industry. Maybe it's just easier to misrepresent the truth when you're picking joey bones from your teeth.

Comments

Good review Scott.

I am half surprised that the poachers don't try to flog joey meat as a delicacy in the same vane as quail.

Roo poachers couldn't tell the difference between kangaroos species, let alone between a male and female kangaroo. I challenge all roo shooters to sit an exam to distinguish between macropod species and sexes before having their permits shooting renewed.

Few people would know let alone could distinguish between a Bridled Nail-tailed Wallaby (near extinction), Brush-tailed rock wallaby (critically endangered), a Swamp Wallaby and a Sand (Agile) Wallaby.

As for the regulated head shot requirement, I doubt few poachers would have marksmanship to shoot a kangaroo in the head at 200m, which is about as close as one could get without spooking them.

Even then, the light would be poor (when they are grazing at dawn or dusk or night) and the type of rifle and scope needed to guarrantee a headshot at that distance in that light would be prohibitively expensive.

Australian hunters tend to use the .222 or the .243 centre fire hunting rifle, which has an effective range with scope of up to 100m if a shooter has excellent vision. Beyond that one is looking at a more powerful .308 or 7.62 calibre rifle which cost over $3000 with high resolution scope. Few roo poachers would have such a weapon.

So the reality of the mandatory 'point of aim' being a head shot is a farce. The relevant law, the National code of practice (commercial and non-commercial) for the humane shooting of kangaroos and wallabies (Schedule 2) is ineffectual since it is simply not enforced.

See "National codes of practice (commercial and non-commercial) for the humane shooting of kangaroos and wallabies".

Tiger Quoll
Snowy River 3885
Australia

Very clear article exploring in detail the important concepts, especially the real situation for joeys at foot when their mothers are killed.

I thought your article was pretty good to Scott especially the link to the petition to support the Kangaroo Harvest (online petition supporting the kangaroo harvest ). If the Kangaroo Industry continue to pump out such mindless drivel to justify their cause then eventually when even the slow witted catch on they will likely bring about their own demise.

I could not believe that they tried to draw a parallel between the miniscule impact of indigenous hunting for thousands of years with the large scale slaughter that currently goes on using modern weapons and technologies in an attempt to demonstrate sustainability. I am reasonably certain the ancient aboriginals hunted roos only for their own immediate needs and not to provide product for global markets. The inane stupidity of the clown that wrote this could only be exceeded by any pinhead gullible enough to believe it. Continued exposure of the fallibility in their justifications will achieve far more than fabricating or spreading baseless propaganda in defence of Kangaroos.

Well Done!

I'm with you Search for Truth, there weren't 22 million indigenous people on the Australian continent in the late 18th century and those that were here were not preoccupied with feeding their pets or export markets. Populations estimates of the indigenous population before white settlement are one million at the most, drawing any comparison with indigenous hunting of kangaroos with the industrial-scale slaughter today is completely irrelevant. Unfortunately it is another one of those clangers often used alongside the "fact" that kangaroos numbers have exploded since the provision of artificial watering points. This in itself is a very general statement and is often casually passed off as fact in government policy, government media statements and all those with commercial self interest. How can we possibly find a "natural" solution such as kangaroo consumption to counter a very unnatural problem? Let alone export kangaroo meat as well.

We have a hundreds of Little Corellas down on the beachfront,making a horrible mess according to all the cafe owners,and all the locals who hate having to sit in Corella mess on their personal bench overlooking the beautiful ocean.The Little Corellas are noisy little birds,that drown out the constant drumming of human noise,traffic,chatter etc..this is my letter to the local Busselton,Dunsborough mail that was published..My views may sound a bit strong..Im not really a human hater,I just despise the way our beautiful Australian animals are being treated,and expected to move aside to the ever increasing plague of humans.

Hi..Could you please publish my letter in the local paper regarding the Little Corellas..Thankyou.

I read with disgust that the local Shire is considering a cull of the local Little Corellas,
as they may pose a threat to the natural environment.What threat is this exactly?.
Why not have a cull of Humans as they are the most environmentally destructive
animal that inhabits our earth.They talk about having a Little Corella control program.
How about having a Human Being control program.
In your newspaper article one lady said "she is ashamed to take people down to the
foreshore",now I would imagine this is because of all the little Corellas that live there.
Well Im ashamed to take people to the foreshore in summer with the swarms of humanity
that leave their rubbish all over the place.If the Shire does go ahead with this cull it will
obviously cost the ratepayer alot of money.Wouldnt the Shire be better to spend that money
on the horrific Port Geographe barren wasteland tidy up which has totally ruined Busselton,or maybe
spend the money on cleaning up the roadside through the Ludlow Tuart Forest which is littered
with rubbish..and makes me feel ashamed when I take friends through there.Or how about spending
this money on getting rid of the horrendous plague of flies that swarm around Busselton during the
summer.Im sure the tourists love the Little Corellas,but the flies will surely keep the tourists away.
Leave the little Corellas alone...

Subject was: Just an observation

Rich B’s comment raises some valid points, at least “Corella mess” is natural and wholly biodegradable but the comment has no relevance to Kangaroos, Kangaroo harvest or even the broader macropod or marsupial classification so why is it posted here?

From time to time off topic comments seem to popup at random throughout the Candobetter site which is somewhat irritating and does not really do justice to the threads where they appear or the comments themselves.

Might I respectfully suggest to admin to consider creation of a miscellaneous comment page that would address this issue and also provide a starting point for new topics such as this one from the general population that still fit the broader candobetter criteria but are not wholly relevant to the threads commenced by candobetter members/regulars?

Editorial Comment: Good suggestion, thank you. See Miscellaneous comments page and 'Miscellaneous' sub menu of Topics menu. - JS.

I think it makes more sense to post the Corellas coment as an article.

Justifications:

* It has nothing to do with the underlying kangaroo article.
* It is worthy of an article post in its own right
* This approach encourages new contributors, even if one off
* To arbitrarily post unrelated comments is a poor precedent, which will lead to a disorganised website where any comment can go anywhere.
* Miscellaneous buckets become default massive once created, bit like consolidated revenues...

Tiger Quoll
Snowy River 3885
Australia

Fine to post the comment as an article or under a new miscellaneous comments page, but harassing Little Corellas is relevant to what is happening to kangaroos as it shows disrespect for nature, callousness to other species, blindness to the ugliness of human impact ... etc etc.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist

Excellent article Scott, thank you. I think if they used the meat from joeys it would amount to about a tablespoon since human-grade meat is very small in a kangaroo (see www.nokangaroomeat.org.)

I think the letter to the editor re Little Corellas is totally appropriate in this section because it highlights Australian's inability to appreciate or even tolerate other species in their space and how we regard everything as a pest when we are the pest.

Perhaps it should be suggested to that council that they use bird scare techniques that are non-lethal instead (e.g. www.pestaway.com.au ). It's amazing how many councils are so clueless about this approach.

Interesting article Scott, myself I've noticed much more kangaroo meat in Coles and Woloworths now, so it must be selling well otherwise they wouldn't be stocking it. I've tried it myself and it was great. To me it makes much more sense than eating beef or lamb as those animals do too much damage to the topsoil.

I don't know about the humane thing. If I'm going to eat meat then I accept that something is going to die but they are going to die anyway, no kangaroo is going to live past maybe 15 years old or so wether I eat it or not. So question what happens to all those kangaroos if we don't harvest them, they must get eaten and their carcasses cleaned up by dingoes / foxes etc.

Since they are not being bred for food I'm not causing a life to be created for me to take it and if I don't eat it its going to die anyway and on top of that they have been hunting kangaroos for a long time with government controls and the population seems ok as the quota is about 15% of population I think.

So all up I reckon if we are going to eat meat kangaroo is a pretty fair choice.

Thanks for the comments Craig. As my article revolves around the word "humane" I probably should have defined it clearly. I was listening to a radio interview with Prof Mike Archer a couple of months ago, when challenged about the inhumane nature of the kangaroo industry his response contained similar elements to your comments. It went something like:

"Kangaroos die, joeys die, all living things die. It has been demonstrated that kangaroo joey mortality is reduced in harvested populations when compared to unharvested populations. Kangaroos do not live forever"

Everything he said made perfect sense, I couldn't fault it. The only problem was he hadn't answered the question in my opinion. Had he been asked about the possibilty of kangaroo immortality he would have hit the nail right on the head. Of course joey mortality is lower in harvested populations, there are no longer as many kangaroos sharing the same resources. Why had he avoided the question? The tactic used was one you would expect from a politician, not a scientist. But then again, it's not really a scientific argument is it. I can only assume that my definition of humane contrasts sharply with that of Prof Archer. Compassion, understanding, sympathy and empathy constitute any humane act in my opinion. Most importantly the humane act applies to the individual, not just the population. This I suspect, is the fundamental difference between my view and that of Prof Archer. It could also explain why I thought his response on the radio was totally irrelevant.

As for what happens to all the kangaroo carcasses when they die of old age.... Well I'm not convinced many of them get that far anyway. Dingoes will usually take them before they die, they do have a shared history going back a lot further than the memories of those currently managing the land.