Russell is a long time member of Animal Liberation in South
Australia. His article was Published in 'Australian Science',
comes as a shock to many of us to realise that our hard hooved
domesticated livestock are really very unsuited to Australian
conditions. Especially those of us brought up to believe that
Australia 'rode on the sheep's back'. It is perhaps understandable
that some people react by suggesting we switch to eating wildlife.
Museum luminaries Tim Flannery and Michael Archer have both
argued for such a life style change in recent years.
suggestions may make wonderful dinner party conversation. They
demonstrate that you aren't a bunny hugging softy. Unfortunately,
they don't stand up to even casual scrutiny. Consider…we currently
kill about 20% of our kangaroo population annually and get a
mere 1500 tonnes of meat for human consumption. That's about
1/2 a kg per animal. Even if we add in the additional meat sold
as pet food, each kangaroo yields only 2 kg per animal. Even
if we stop leaving kangaroos shot for the skin trade to rot
in paddocks, we still have to realise that they are small animals.
The biggest of our kangaroos, the male reds, have an average
live weight of only 65 kg, with the females a mere 25 kg. Take
out the bones, skin and the other inedibles, and there just
isn't much left. Grey kangaroos are even smaller at about 2/3
of this weight. In comparison, cattle yield a thousand times
the meat - really. We get 1,700,000 tonnes of beef each year.
To get this from kangaroos we would need, at present efficiency
rates, to be 200 times the entire kangaroo population annually.
is finger-lick'n possum a real option. We currently put 330
million chickens in sheds each year and raise a 2kg bird in
7 weeks using 3.2 kg of feed (plus a stack of antibiotics -
of course). Try that trick with brush tailed possums. First,
they are solitary animals which fight when housed in groups.
Second, they take about 8-12 months to get to a 2kg liveweight,
and lastly they eat a big heap of food getting there.
significant numbers of Australians were to regularly eat kangaroos,
or possums, or ducks, or any other of our native species you
care to mention, then those animals would be wiped out in no
people forget that we have had widespread 'wildlife utilisation'
for most of our history and that many of our wildlife protection
laws arose because of the damage done to our wildlife during
that period. For example, the 1885 Game Act in South Australia
outlawed the use of the punt gun, a device mounted on a boat
which could reputedly kill 150 pelicans with one shot. The sale
of wild ducks was banned in 1928 in SA to protect the population,
and even earlier in Victoria.
current choices of domestic crops and animals aren't an accident.
They have been purpose bred and selected for thousands of years.
The modern corncob is much larger than its 1/2 inch ancestor
and the animals are bigger, and easier to herd and manage. Jared
Diamond's book "Guns, Germs and Steel" gives a solid
history of food and the imperatives behind the change to farming
and away from wildlife utilisation - which is really just a
fancy word for hunter- gathering. With 20 million people in
Australia, there is no going back. Wildlife can never provide
serious food for such a population.
no mistake, I strongly support Michael Archer's call to increase
the size of Australia's protected areas, but I think there is
a far more efficient way of doing this than eating wildlife.
quick glance at the Australian Year Book tells us that about
65% of Australia is listed as agricultural and 95% of this is
used for grazing - and we export about half of the animal products
produced. The other 5% (of the 65%) is cropped and we export
about 90% of that (mostly wheat). It is therefore obvious that
if you want to maximise the number of people fed while also
minimising the land used to do it, then you won't eat animals
- wild or domestic. You will be a vegetarian.