Film provokes industry reply on truth about kangaroo harvesting

By , 25/04/2020 19:35

Kangaroos as far as the eye can see in far western NSW near Broken Hill last month. Photo by Rachael Webb of The Land.The release of the controversial film ‘Kangaroo, ALove-Hate Story’, has prompted a response from the Kangaroo Industries Association of over which claims are true, partly true and false in the film.
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The film was released in this week, but follows an American season, with a review in The NewYork Times prompting the headline “wildlife massacre”.

The film’s production has links to a kangaroo protection grouplinked to the University of Technology in Sydney, THINKK.

THINKK’s mission is to “foster understanding among ns about kangaroos in a sustainable landscape, through critically reviewing the scientific evidence underpinning kangaroo management practices and exploring non-lethal management options that are consistent with ecology, animal welfare, human health and ethics.”

THINKK has links to an animal activistgroup, Voiceless, funded by benefactors, the Sherman family.

The film interviewed people in the kangaroo products industry, but none were given pre-release access to the film or invited to the opening at the Dendy in Newtown, Sydney.

Greens senator Lee Rhiannon flew to Brussels last week to show the film to members of the European Community in a bid to stop kangaroo meat exports to the EU. Senator Rhiannon claims shooting of kangaroos is unncessary and the population is under threat.

The kangaroo meat industry is worth about $200m a year and new markets are currently being sought in Asia. It is estimated there are nearly 50 million kangaroos in .

There is one meat processor in Queensland, which employs local aboriginal youth. Meat prices have slumped toabout 70c a kilo for shooters, putting many on the breadline.

The Kangaroo Industries Association of has provided to The Land this extensive response to claims in the film, some of which are true, partly true and false. The information below wasprimary sourced.

CLAIM 1: Loss of habitat, urban development, agricultural practices and continuingindustrial-scale slaughter eliminate kangaroos across vast regions where historicalrecords described them as once widespread and abundant.

PARTLY TRUE: While some kangaroo and wallaby species have declined in numbers dueto the impact of humans on their habitats, other species have benefited and increased inpopulation size. Only four species of kangaroo with large populations are permitted to beharvested – the Western Grey Kangaroo, Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Common Wallaroo andRed Kangaroo.Kangaroo populations fluctuate independently of the harvest, due to factors such as drought.State harvest levels are based on population surveys, meaning fewer kangaroos areharvested when populations decline. After more than four decades of commercial harvest,harvested kangaroos remain among the most abundant large wild vertebrates on earth.Population estimates for the four harvested species fluctuated between 17 million and 57million between 1980 and 2009. In 2016, the population in commercial harvest zones wasestimated at 47.2 million. Figures for 2017 will be available after March 2018.

CLAIM 2: Kangaroos grow and breed slowly and have high juvenile mortality. Forexample, a Grey Kangaroo doe can produce up to eight independent joeys in herlifetime,” with just two likely to survive to independence.

PARTLY TRUE: Female kangaroos breed slowly in drought conditions and continuouslyunder good conditions. They can produce up to three young simultaneously at differentstages of development. Most kangaroos mate within a few days of giving birth to ensure anew birth can occur very soon after the first young exits the pouch, taking advantage of goodconditions.Grey kangaroos differ in that they tend to breed seasonally and, therefore,produce fewer young.Juvenile kangaroos have high mortality rates in drought periods, which can lead to a lack ofnutrition, disease and predation.

CLAIM 3: Maximum wild population growth rates average “10% in optimal conditions,with annual declines of up to 60% during drought recorded. It is biologicallyimpossible for kangaroo populations to increase rapidly.

PARTLY TRUE: An average 10% annual increase in kangaroo numbers could beconsidered rapid growth. A 10% increase on 2016 population numbers of harvested specieswould equate to around 470,000 additional kangaroos. Existing populations of some speciesin certain areas are already considered to be unsustainable.

Kangaroos fight with stock and feral goats for water in drought-hit parts of NSW.

CLAIM 4: Shooting quotas of 15-20% or more of population estimates exceed actualkangaroo population growth rates.

FALSE: The commercial kangaroo harvest takes place under regulations that allow a quotaof 10–20% of the estimated population to be taken each year. The number of kangaroos thatare actually harvested has been much less (around 65% of the allowable quota) since2001.Harvesting quotas are set by state wildlife management agencies based on currentpopulation estimates as well as the modelled impact of current and projected climate onnumbers to protect populations from over-harvesting.

CLAIM 5: Analysis shows critically flawed kangaroo survey methodologiessystematically inflate population estimates from which commercial shooting quotasare then over-allocated.

FALSE: Population estimates are based on aerial and ground surveys in the areas within where commercial harvesting occurs. The actual national populations would besignificantly higher as these figures do not include estimates for areas not surveyed.Quotas may be modified during the year based on seasonal conditions, the results ofadditional surveys and monitoring of the harvest throughout the year. Restrictions may beplaced on the harvest such as closing certain areas down or placing weight and size limitson the animals entering the industry.

CLAIM 6: Consideration of commercial shooting impacts on kangaroo populationshas never included millions of kangaroos additionally shot by landowners and illegalshooting. Other major mortality factors are also ignored.

FALSE: Since the late 1970s, harvest quotas have been based upon population estimatesobtained primarily from aerial surveys, with some consideration being given to factors suchas overall population trends, climatic conditions and trends in various harvest statistics,including carcass weight, sex ratio, skin size and the size of the overall offtake.In its report entitled Review of Kangaroo Management March 1990, representatives of theUS Fish and Wildlife Service found that “Adequate legislation exists in all States andTerritories of for the protection of the red kangaroo, the eastern grey kangaroo andthe western grey kangaroo …. There does not appear to be any large scale illegal killing ofkangaroos being conducted in any of the States of having a commercial export killquota for kangaroos.”

The film Kangaroo has just been released in .

CLAIM 7: Government survey data and commercial shooting statistics illustratedeclining populations and landscapes now significantly depleted of kangaroos.

FALSE: Population estimates for the four harvested species fluctuated between 17 millionand 57 million between 1980 and 2009.13 In 2016, the population in commercial harvestzones was estimated at 47.2 million. Figures for 2017 will be available after March 2018.

CLAIM 8: Shooting occurs away from any scrutiny and in darkness when nonlethalshots are inevitable, often causing horrific injuries. Evidence suggests 4-40%commercially shot animals are not shot directly in the brain but in the neck or body.This equates to between 65,284 – 652,839 animals mis-shot in 2015. Unknown furthernumbers of mis-shot kangaroos are left to die in the field by commercial and noncommercialshooters.

FALSE: The harvest occurs at dusk and at night, because this is when kangaroos are mostactive. Shooters are skilled and licenced professionals with a high accuracy rate. About 97%of all kangaroos targeted by professional harvesters were killed instantaneously inaccordance with regulatory requirements according to a 2014 study.Of the one million kangaroos inspected by Federal Government veterinarians in 2014, only25 were reported as not having been shot in the head.

CLAIM 9: The national Code of Practice requires shooters to shoot at-foot joeys anddecapitate or “crush the skull and destroy the brain” of pouch young.

TRUE: To address concerns about the welfare of joeys, the KIAA introduced a male-onlypolicy in 2013.Although blunt trauma to the head may be seen as cruel and violent by observers and maybe unpleasant to perform from the animal’s perspective, the duration and extent of sufferingis much less than other methods. The duration of distress prior to the use of blunt trauma isalso likely to be less compared with other methods (such as overdose with barbiturate).The Code of Practice is currently being reviewed through a project led by AgriFutures. The review is being informed through a reference group of representatives fromthe n Veterinary Association, the RSPCA, industry and relevant governmentagencies.

CLAIM 10: Research confirms most dependent at-foot joeys are left in the field tosuffer exposure, starvation, or predation, and that pouch joeys’ heads are generallyswung against vehicles.

TRUE: To address concerns about the welfare of joeys, the KIAA introduced a male-onlypolicy in 2013. Of the 24 young-at-foot that were observed in a 2014 study by AgriFutures in 2014, only one was euthanised with a shot to the head. The reasons forharvesters not killing at-foot joeys despite the requirement in the Code of Practice include:

• Young often forage some distance from the mother and can be difficult to see.

• They tend to flee when their mother has been shot and are difficult to catch.

• If there are a number of young in the vicinity, it is difficult to know which one belongsto the mother.

• Some harvesters don’t like using blunt trauma on the larger joeys but considershooting at close range to be too dangerous.

• Some joeys are deemed large enough to survive on their own.

Large pouch young were killed by a single forceful blow to the head, which included a largerock, heavy object or vehicle. This is in accordance with the Code of Practice.

CLAIM 11: Joeys killed or left to die are not recorded. Around 8 million dependentjoeys are estimated to have died due to commercial shooting in the period 2000-2009.Over 110,000 joeys died from commercial shooting alone in 2015 based on reportedfigures.

PARTLY TRUE: The number of joeys killed are not recorded, therefore, the above estimatescannot be based in fact. However, since the Kangaroo Industries Association of nintroduced its male-only policy in 2013, less than 5% of the kangaroos it harvests have beenfemale.This has significantly reduced the number of joeys killed.

CLAIM 12: 75% of emerging human pathogens originate in wildlife. Kangaroo is a wildbushmeat sold in supermarkets and restaurants. It is not tested for the many human harmingpathogens it harbours.

FALSE: Kangaroo carcases are all subject to an independent post mortem inspection byDepartment of Agriculture and Water Resources officials called Food Safety Meat Assessorsor a third-party meat inspector under the supervision of a departmental veterinarian prior tobeing passed fit for human consumption.All registered export establishments are required to participate in the National CarcaseMicrobiology Monitoring Program, which involves testing conducted by NATA accreditedlaboratories, under the Export Control (Wild Game Meat and Wild Game Meat Products)Orders 2010 and Amendment Orders 2014.In addition to the microbiological sampling,Meat Hygiene Assessments and Process monitoring is conducted.Cooking meat also destroys bacteria such as Salmonella, Camplyobacter and E. coli.22 It isrecommended that kangaroo meat like most meats be cooked before eating.

CLAIM 13: Wild kangaroos are shot and butchered in the field without supervision.They are transported on unrefrigerated open trucks exposed to dust and flies andfrequently high ambient temperatures.

PARTLY TRUE: To ensure wild game carcases and wild game meat are wholesome,operators need to maintain appropriate hygiene. Field processors must ensure that theirvehicles and equipment:

• are cleaned and sanitised whenever necessary to prevent contamination of wildgame meat and wild game meat products;

• are clean before operations begin each day, and are cleaned at the end ofoperations each day; and

• if there is more than one shift in a day, are dry cleaned at the end of each shift arekept in a good state of repair.

The Kangaroo Industries Association of complies with all health and safetyregulations. Game meat harvester vehicles are routinely checked by the Food Authority forcompliance with requirements.

CLAIM 14: There have been repeated findings of contaminated kangaroo meat overmany years. In 2014 Russia banned kangaroo meat imports for a third time due topathogenic contamination. Acetic acid is routinely used to cleanse the meat ofsystemic contamination.

FALSE: Globally, there has never been a documented case of illness due to e-coli orsalmonella from the consumption of kangaroo meat. In 2014, Russia banned the import ofmeat, fish and dairy from the EU, US, , Canada and Norway in response tointernational sanctions. Kangaroo exports were affected by this ban.24 Food Standardsn New Zealand allows the use of processing aids such as acetic acid and they arewidely used in . No processing aids are used for EU markets.

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