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Some Reasons Against Kangaroo Farming
Susie Rowe 25/5/2000

Kangaroo farming is not a simple and isolated concept. It is part of a bigger, more complex issue, the factors of which must be carefully considered when thinking about the topic, hence their inclusion in this paper.

My thoughts, observations, interest and reading come about as a result of having raised, lived beside and worked closely with kangaroos constantly for over 10 years. It is a pity that more people haven’t had the chance, so that they too would have a deeper understanding. I have also lived on the land for most of my life.

"In the 210 years since European inhabitance,….. Australia has lost 20 species or 8% of our mammalian species…. plus subspecies…….The greatest decline has occurred in the arid zones where approximately 33% of mammal species are locally extinct….." (Gunn, Trounson, Giles, 1998). Out of our "49 macropod species,….6 have become extinct, 7 are endangered and 10 classed as vulnerable due to their small population in restricted areas….and numbers of the remaining species are killed annually." (Gunn, 1999)

Western Grey kangarooAccording to Environment Australia, "Australia accounts for about one third of the world’s mammal species that have become extinct in modern times." They then list all the different species that are known to be extinct, or threatened, in their 1996 Action Plan. And these are the ones that are known about, since these facts have started to be recorded. A shameful number of other species of fauna are now extinct, endangered or threatened throughout Australia. Isn’t there enough information for us, so that we can see the need to protect those species that are left? Native flora is in the same predicament. Our natural resources are in a mess, in fact humans have created undeniable and disgraceful damage to our environment and original ecosystems. And we continue to do so with very little thought and consideration to our fellow species.

Our kangaroos are in danger of becoming extinct in the long run. The typical attitude is that because we see kangaroos in large mobs in some places, there is no fear of their extinction. This is not correct and we really need to stop and examine what we are doing. We have cleared their native habitat, their preferred foods, the foods they need for their true health and vigour. It is not correct to say that we have improved their situation and diet with the pastures. We have replaced their nutrition with chemically laden introduced species of vegetation – crops, grasses and weeds.

We are also incorrect to presume that we have improved their drinking circumstances. They have survived for centuries with the watering points they had – fresh, clean water, unlike the low quality and polluted type we are offering. They were and would be, (if still allowed), adapted to drinking from their major water sources and would have had succulent plants in between to provide them with the goodness and moisture they needed.

It is also a deep paradigm to say that numbers of kangaroos have increased due to improved conditions. The reason for the increase, is that since the white settlers have been hunting and killing kangaroos, they have foreseen their own demise, particularly in more recent history. They see the need to breed intensely for the survival of their species. We are taking the biggest and the best, they need to keep producing in the hope that some of their family may be able to survive to pass on the strength and vitality through the genes.

Because of our furious predation and clearing of their required foods, we are weakening their overall health. We are causing their immunity to become lower, so now they are succumbing to all manner of diseases.

While the Kangaroo Industry flourishes, the situation will become increasingly precarious for our kangaroos. The Industry is there for human interests only. It must not be encouraged or allowed to continue if we value our kangaroos and their future. It is not only barbaric and incredibly cruel, it has completely unbalanced nature’s laws and the bigger picture. Each year the quotas for legal shooting increase, in 1999 the quota was 5.6 million. That is for legal shooting. That does not include the death of the joeys, illegal practices, road kills and accidents.

In fact this heavy culling is not necessary. People blame kangaroos for land degradation!! And yet still landholders clear native vegetation, heavily graze their country and farm intensely without consideration for the soils and the diverse environment that should be existing. There are a few loud and dangerous voices in high places who are siding with those who feel that they have a problem with kangaroos. Unfortunately, other people are blindly accepting without really thinking long term. Our environment is in its current tragic state because that’s what we have been doing all along – following a few, without being aware and learning from our environment.

Kangaroos are not a threat to the environment or landholders. Several studies, including one over a period of 6 years by Steve McLeod, through the University of NSW, have proved that kangaroos have different dietary requirements than sheep, that competition is negligible with sheep being the dominant competitor. At Fowler’s Gap, near Broken Hill, there has been no culling for 30 odd years. They haven’t experienced any major problems with competition between the sheep and kangaroos. In fact the manager, Paul Adams, said that in a drought the kangaroos die before the sheep. He also said that kangaroo numbers have not increased. Graham Arnold, Research Scientist, CSIRO, W.A., reports that 13 mammal species are extinct now in that state due to agricultural development and loss of native vegetation. He also conducted a study of Western Grey kangaroos and found that very few of them wandered more than 400 metres from their home range in the bush and 95% of wheat crops are never visited.

His study shows that the kangaroos prefer to eat the native vegetation.

We need to think of other ways to solve our problems. Shooting is an easy option and while it is allowed, people will not think beyond it, to other alternative, harmless ways of co-existing with kangaroos on the land. We must stop thinking of kangaroos as a "renewable resource". We must be concerned with protection instead of exploitation. We must think beyond our financial budget to 50 years or 500 years ahead.

We must certainly NOT be promoting kangaroo farming, which really is just an extension of the Kangaroo Industry.

Why farm kangaroos anyway?? There is NO FUTURE in it so why take more kangaroos to hell and back in the meantime. Already in some countries kangaroo meat and products have been banned. The major supermarket chains in UK have stopped stocking kangaroo meat due to public protest. So what happens when finally there is a total move against kangaroo products, therefore no markets or if a farmer becomes tired of his kangaroo farming venture, sees the error of his way or is not making a profit? What then for the kangaroos? They end up in a big hole like the emus at "Gillenbah" (near Narrandera) or the gates are opened and they are let loose onto the neighbours’ property like deer have been. People will turn against the current cruel treatment of kangaroos and understand the evolutionary ramifications just as they have done with whale hunting and other unnecessary barbaric practices for human-only gain. Fortunately there are people, worldwide, who are working for the protection of our fellow species.

Kangaroo meat is obviously not a healthy product. Consider how and where kangaroos are killed, transported and processed. Those factors hardly match the pristine health standards of usual meat killing and handling hygiene. Usually animals are inspected for diseases before and after death, not kangaroos. Even if kangaroos were inspected, the procedures may not detect some of the diseases. Dr David Obendorf, BVSc (Hons), B(An) Sc, PhD, is a Wildlife Pathologist with over 20 years experience of working in the area of parasites and diseases of Australian native fauna. He is also an Australian Member of the Scientific Advisory Board to the International Animal Health Body. He warns the public that kangaroos and wallabies can harbour a wide range of parasitic, bacterial, fungal and viral diseases and the majority of infections are unapparent (i.e. animals appear normal.) "Even meat inspection procedures are unlikely to detect some infections unless gross lesions are detected or routine samples are taken for microbiological and pathological testing". He also warns that in Australia, toxoplasmosis and the bacterial disease salmonellosis are two infections with public health significance directly related to the handling, processing and consumption of kangaroo meat. There have been cases of toxoplasmosis reported as a result of eating kangaroo meat. Also a confirmed case of a ‘new’ disease, Pseudotrichinosis, in a Tasmanian man "who was known as a big eater of native meat including wallaby" (Sydney Morning Herald, October 2, 1997.)

"We’ve been aggressively marketing (kangaroo meat) for a number of years", said John Kelly, executive officer for the Kangaroo Industry (Canberra Times, June1999) It’s not in their interest, nor in the others’ who propound the exploitation of our kangaroos, to tell the public of the possible dangers of eating kangaroo meat. Doctors, vets and scientists have issued warnings that so little is known about the potential for native animals to infect humans and about the dangers of infection by parasites and bacteria in kangaroo meat as a result of the culling, handling and cooking. Chefs prefer to serve the meat in an undercooked, rare form because it is tough. It will probably take more food poisoning and serious illnesses before they do some dedicated research into further information.

The logistics of farming kangaroos would be very difficult! Fencing for this would be incredibly expensive in fact not at all viable. Fencing kangaroos would also be dangerous and cruel. Kangaroos live by their fright/flight reaction. They flee from the slightest disturbance. If there was a high fence in the way of a mob who were frightened there would be horrific accidents. Kangaroos need space, they belong in an expansive area, not segmented into designated confines. They have great surges of energy and they need to go for long pounding hops to release that. They also have their own community rules and regulations which humans should respect and not confiscate.

Stress for kangaroos in captivity, or semi-captivity, is the major cause of death. Kangaroos who were being farmed would have an extremely high level of stress. This would manifest into all manner of diseases and resulting death. Over a prolonged period, this stress would cause low vigour, therefore poor health and low resistance to disease and so more health problems. They also need to be able to choose a variety of foods, including a selection of native vegetation, bark, soils and other things at different times. No farmer could meet those needs. The way kangaroos would be managed would cause an incredible amount of stress for them. Kangaroos have the same emotions as humans. They also have very strong attachments to each other, especially a mother with her joey. It would be totally cruel to separate them for whatever needs the farmer deemed. The kangaroo community feels the loss of a member and this would be a continual trauma in a farming situation. (All these things are already an issue with the institution of the Kangaroo Industry.)

Kangaroos are by nature not a docile animal, they are bouncey and robust. Bucks are very powerful and strong, no human is a true equal in their ability to defend. If a human was between a buck and his female or being a threat in another situation, the buck could be extremely dangerous for the human.

If kangaroos are to be farmed without the use of additional fencing, what’s the difference to the current situation? How would farmers show ownership as they hop from property to property? How could there be any control over the protection of the species? The notion of farming only invites more disrespect, cruelty and illegalities towards kangaroos.

Kangaroos may be a problem for people on the land, however we must rethink our actions and the ways in which we deal with our problems. Kangaroo farming is not a solution and should definitely not even be considered. Landholders need to just stay with the farming of sheep and cattle and do so without further degradation of the land.

We must evaluate our paradigms and truly care in an entire and wholistic manner for our environment, and our native Australian species therein, before it is too late. Protect not exploit.

REFERENCES:

Arnold G. ‘Can kangaroos survive in the wheatbelt?’ from WA Journal of Agriculture Vol 31 1990

Environment Australia Biodiversity Group. ‘The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes’ website www.anca.gov.au/plants/threaten/marsupap/marsup3.htm

Gunn I M, Trounson A, Giles J. ‘Conservation of Genetic Resources in Australia’. Presentation paper at Euro- American Mammal Conference, Spain July 1998

Gunn I M. ‘Preservation of our macropods: Now and in the future’ . Paper for publication, "The Kangaroo Betrayed", 1999

Obendorf D. ‘Diseases in Kangaroo Meat’. Paper for publication, "The Kangaroo Betrayed". 1999

Wilson M. "The Kangaroo Betrayed, World’s Largest Wildlife Slaughter". Hill of Content 1999

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