In Australia, kangaroos are considered a resource. Governments believe that the commercial kangaroo industry provides jobs for rural communities. Truth be told, tourism creates hundreds of times more jobs and income for rural communities. The commercial kangaroo industry only makes a handful of people wealthy.
Depending on who you speak to, kangaroos are pests, a commercial resource, an iconic Australian symbol or an endangered species. In 1958, kangaroos narrowly survived a pastoralists’ vote to list them as noxious animals. If the vote had passed, and been agreed upon by State Cabinet, landowners would have been forced to rid their land of this noxious species (kangaroos). During 1964 and 1965, culled kangaroo populations crashed due to drought. The sentiment that kangaroos are pests had to be re-interpreted for species survival.
In 1965, Sports Illustrated published an article penned by staff writer Virginia Kraft (1965), under the heading Goodby, Kangaroos. The lead sentence stated: “Australia’s national symbol and one of nature’s unique creatures is being threatened with shameful extinction.”
Virginia Kraft visited western New South Wales, near Bourke, a scene she described as shooting and chillers. Her article continued: “In Australia ignorance is apparently also politically more profitable. For several years now, state and federal legislators have been singularly deaf and blind to the impending kangaroo crisis, not because they care nothing for kangaroos but because they care more for the substantial grazier vote.”
Virginia Kraft is accurate in many ways. The reason we have a commercial harvest of kangaroos is because pastoralists consider kangaroos to be pests and want to rid their land of this noxious invader. The Federal and State Governments view dead kangaroos as a waste. If you’re going to kill kangaroo to win the grazier’s vote, you might as well make money from kangaroo’s dead bodies.
Let’s fast-forward to 1988 and a report by the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare aptly titled Kangaroos. The following excerpts explain how agricultural managers perceive kangaroos as pests and will kill them whether authorised or not. The excerpt continues to explain that the perceived damage caused by kangaroos was, in fact, caused by insects.
The Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare concluded: “As a protected animal, the kangaroo has the right to be left alone except in the case of the protection of property, within the requirements of the law. Leaving aside the use of kangaroos in research, which is being considered in the Committee’s examination of animal experimentation, the Committee believes that the kangaroo should not be killed for any other purpose.”
The committee continued: “In some areas, especially new crop areas, the shooting of kangaroos has not been the answer to the farmers’ kangaroo problem. The killing of kangaroos should be a last resort, not the first option, in containing kangaroo damage.”
The Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare recommended the continuation of the commercial killing of kangaroos for damage mitigation purposes only. Unfortunately, the commercial industry is greedy and constantly seeking to increase markets for kangaroo meat and skins, which means they need to kill more and more kangaroos to supply the increasing markets. Innocent kangaroos who never cause any damage in their short lives are shot for money. In Australia, it’s open slaughter on kangaroos every night of the year.
Not all agriculture managers perceive kangaroos as pests. Not all agriculture managers want to kill kangaroos. Their views don’t matter, nor do the views of the general public. Even the Federal Government’s committees are ignored. For sixty years, Australia has killed kangaroos for money earned from the sale of meat, skins and other body parts. On several occasions, over the decades, the slaughter combined with droughts have driven kangaroos to the brink of extinction. For instance, the Great Drought of 1901-03 produced fears for the red kangaroo and for five years the red kangaroo enjoyed legal protection. The 1964-65 drought saw red kangaroo numbers crash and measures had to be introduced by State Cabinet to significantly slow down the decline. In 2011, an application was made to the New South Wales Threatened Species Committee to have the western grey kangaroo listed as threatened. The application failed.
Demand for kangaroo meat and skins has increased due to export markets opening up in foreign countries. Nowadays, governments are more concerned with making money from kangaroos than protecting them from extinction. Gone are the days when Governments would protect kangaroos. An example is the red kangaroo population of the mid-north in South Australia, which crashed from 32,000 to 5,500 during the last drought. Yet, hunters can kill 1,500 of the 5,500 during 2020 – driving these animals to extinction.
Kangaroos need our help because governments focus on supplying a commercial industry and keeping agriculture managers happy. It’s up to us to speak up for kangaroos before time runs out for them.
Source Material: https://publications.rzsnsw.org.au/doi/pdf/10.7882/AZ.2010.027