My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today, 27 March 2018

by ray goodlass

Who’s right and who’s wrong about kangaroo killing?

Recent weeks have seen much media coverage of the news that Australia is planning to kill more than a million kangaroos this year, supposedly to protect both agricultural land and endangered grasslands.

However, we have a complex relationship with ‘our’ kangaroos and many people argue it is a needless slaughter, as the recent and controversial new film ‘Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story’ graphically shows us. Given all the controversy it’s time to bite the bullet and address this thorny topic, as also did Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, who was in Brussels recently to speak at the European premiere of the film.

The movie suggests kangaroos are a “disappearing resource”, and shows footage of the animals being shot en masse, with many dying very slow and painful deaths.
But the National Farmers Federation and meat processors have all slammed the film as a misrepresentation of the situation that ignores the basic facts.

Let’s look at the arguments for and against before reaching a conclusion.

The arguments for are partly driven by agricultural concerns, in that kangaroos eat and otherwise destroy crops. This problem is in part exacerbated by much of our agriculture being irrigated, which no doubt helped to increase the ‘roo population by providing them with more to eat or drink. They are a pest, in other words, putting our food security at risk.

The other main argument for culling is an environmental one, claiming that the increased numbers mean that native vegetation is being destroyed.

Let’s now look at the opposing arguments showing that the culling is unnecessary and needlessly cruel.

The cruelty issue isn’t necessarily that killing any sentient animal is in itself cruel, though of course that case an be made, but rather as the film points out, though shooters are instructed to use a ‘brain shot’ this is not always easy to do to a fast moving animal. There is unfortunately ample evidence that the ‘brain shot’ is often not achieved. So the cruelty argument has validity.

So has the ‘numbers’ issue. Senator Rhiannon addressed this question fairly squarely in a recent Senate address in which she explained that the government’s own data reveals a serious trend of decline in kangaroo numbers since surveys began some 30 years ago. “The published science of kangaroo reproductive biology and population ecology shows that the so-called population explosions described in the data are biologically impossible for this slow-breeding marsupial” she said.

Indeed, current analysis of the survey methodology and raw data is now suggesting systematic and massive deliberately false inflation of kangaroo numbers, from which corresponding excessively inflated commercial shooting quotas are extracted, so that larger numbers may be shot from shrinking populations. In other words, the data is skewed to justify an increased kill quota.

To my mind though the most compelling case against ‘roo culling comes, despite the pro-shooters’ arguments, from an environmental perspective,. The problem arises because we ‘white fellas’ have introduced exotic species such as sheep and cattle that don’t thrive on native grasslands whereas ‘roos do. Most kangaroo shooting in NSW occurs in the dry western rangelands where agricultural productivity is poor.

So instead of the unproductive cull or not cull quarrel wouldn’t it be better to invest in Indigenous peoples and other land managers to manage the least productive portions of the land for the Indigenous suite of species, thereby controlling feral animals, weeds and bushfires ?