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Friday, February 12, 2010

Commercial killing of Kangaroos

Every now and then something comes across my desk which is so remarkable that I feel the desire to publicise it - with the approval of the original author. In this case, the document came from my friend Mark of Mt Rae, near Taralga, NSW (north-east of Goulburn).

PLEASE LOOK AT THE ATTACHED photos and then think of the commercial killing of millions of kangaroos this year across Australia.
Mum is shot, and hopefully dies quickly. The joey, which may be growing in her pouch and is attached to a teat (not visible in these photos) may be bashed to death or decapitated. (This is an act I have had to perform many times, when checking roadkill female macropod pouches and finding tiny, non viable joeys. Such an act is done as an act of kindness to end suffering, not as a brutal by-product of a commercial industry seeking mums skin for leather, her flesh for pet food, and apparently now as an environmentally friendly boutique food for people who would turn up their nose at the thought of eating wild rabbit).

But what of her 'young at foot' which is with mum in these photos?
DJW Edit: There was some confusion in my mind, as to whether these were
Grey Kangaroos or Wallaroos.
It has been confirmed now that they Are Grey Kangaroos, not Wallaroos.
But the same facts of biology apply to them as to the Grey Kangaroo.
Thankfully, both of these species are protected in the wildlife refuge
in the Mt Rae Forest.

The industry makes no mention of these. They are now too large for the pouch and no longer classified as joeys. Yet this little one still feeds from Mum?
I love the look of "resignation" on the face of Mum.
Unlike other mammals, Macropods do not just pass on essential antibodies in the first few feeds, but throughout the entire feeding and weaning process. A fully functioning immune system is essential to these highly strung animals, which can die easily of stress induced myopathy***. The young roo in this photo is bonded to his mum. He is dependent on her, not just for milk until weaned, but to lead him away from predators, teach him the 'wallaby trails' and introduce him to his environment.
I love the way Mum is resting on the Joey's back.
How many millions of these young at foot have died in the past decade we will never know. They are not large enough to be killed commercially (for skin or meat) and hop away into the night. Will they die quickly of stress myopathy***, or be killed by foxes or suffer a slow death by malnutrition?

The belief of shooters that these immature Kangaroos will survive
to be next years harvest are not based on fact.

Why is it that a value is only put on animal species when they are in danger of disappearing? Why does our appreciation rise, only as a species numbers disappear?

2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity.
Biodiversity means ALL living things.
We are human but certainly not humane. Otherwise we would use our science to find solutions that do not involve such barbaric practices. It would seem the only solutions we have where animals are concerned is the final solution. I suspect that we will not stop until all that is left to destroy is ourselves.


*** Myopathy - this condition causes the build up of lactic acids that can cause muscle degeneration, paralysis and death.

Red and grey kangaroos practice embryonic diapause and are known to stop reproduction during extended drought conditions.
It is also believed by some that they can determine the sex of the offspring.

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(Victor Hugo)

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Sebastian said...

This is a tricky topic. The culling of kangaroos happens whether there is an industry for their meat and leather or not. They are a direct competitor for pasture. The harvesting of kangaroos is done under a tag system by professional shooters.
To me, this seems far less barbaric than the horrific side effects that agriculture has had on this country. Macropods are one of a only a handful of native creatures that have thrived as a result of widespread tree felling and land clearing. It makes sense to me that a controlled harvest of certain abundant species is sustainable, and yes, even desirable if it means the animal is able to live a natural life prior to harvest.
There is a environmental argument relating to generation of greenhouse gases that I won't get into here, but suffice to say that Australia needs to shed its dependence on beef, chicken and pork. Lamb is a meat with a smaller environmental footprint, but really, considering what sheep go through in their lifespan, I think harvesting macropods is a better option.
Just my two cents! Great post Denis.

P.S. I was vegetarian for nearly three years up until earlier this year where I reasoned that my position didn't make sense either morally or logically (as far as the environment is concerned).

Denis Wilson said...

Brigid (Miss Eagle) has sent me the following commments:

To Sebastian: Would like to know why his vegetarian position no longer made sense, particularly environmentally.
To you: The post and pictures were great. However, we had a long way to go to get beyond the compassion of cute into looking clearly at ourselves and the issues. We still consider ourselves to be a dominant and superior species not just one of many species each with their own special functions.
Perhaps if we began to regard ourselves as just one of many species we might identify more with the problems of other species and we might be able to consider in a mature way the management of species in the wild.
I am thinking not only of kangaroos but also the camels which are causing problems. The problem is not easy to solve but - like everything - because we do not give sufficient thought to problems we look for the easy way such as to cull is to kill. Have we explored all our options such as contraception and more considered land and crop management and left ourselves open to new considerations. I doubt that we have.

Blessings and bliss
Miss Eagle

Sebastian said...

While vegetarianism might make sense based on fundamentalist sort of morality, that animals are sentient beings and therefore should be endowed with certain rights, environmentally it doesn't make sense.
Just as agriculture and the domestication of animals has completely corrupted the natural world, so would a converse approach should it be undertaken today. The devastation that soya crops have caused to the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil is a case in point. It's ironic that most vegetarian protein comes from soy, perhaps the most environmentally devastating of crops. Don't even get me started on the use of corn for biofuel.
Livestock is devastating to the environment, no question. But at the very least we are utilising land in a manner that produces the most nutrient rich food. Yes, this is a very cynical anthropocentric view, but until we resolve to reducing the world's population, then this is how it has to be.
To improve animal welfare, the best step is to reduce human poverty. More wealth equals lower fertility and a greater push for conservation from a population. This is borne out by the fact that only we, the fabulously priviliged who need not worry about food and shelter, have time to worry about such things as animal welfare.

Being a vegetarian was beside the point to me. There are stronger gestures and more effective efforts to be made. That being said, we all have different opinions, so each to their own as far as I'm concerned! My fiancée is still a vegetarian.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Sebastian
I will refer your response to Brigid (who is not automatically posted with your response).
As for myself, I know I do not function well on a vegetarian diet, (not that I have ever tried it as a "diet", except for rare occasions).
There is something odd to me about distinguishing between animals and plants.
The theory used be that plants are not "sentient beings". But in fact, we know that is not the case.
I know a fungal specialist who refuses to eat Mushrooms, on the same basis.
I certainly agree that population control is the most pressing need facing the planet.
Thanks for your input.