Issue Report: Kangaroo culling in Australia

Should Australia be culling kangaroos?

In many parts of Australia, the government has been implementing a policies in which kangaroo populations are culled (killed) to stop them from over-populating, damaging Australia’s ecosystem and causing a host of other problems. In recent years protests over these government programs has become particularly acute. As a result, plans to slaughter 400 kangaroos living on an abandoned military site near the capital of Australia were put on hold, among a number of other proposed culling projects that have been delayed or stopped by protests. With Kangaroo population problems persisting, it appears that that the government will continue to press for cullings and that protesters will still actively oppose these efforts. The debate appears set to continue well into the future as to whether Kangaroo cullings are appropriate. The questions that are raised by this issue are many fold. First, what is the extent of the damage that Kangaroos pose to various Australian habitats? Are they threatening to bring habitats, ecosystems, and species to the brink of extinction? How important is it to Australia to prevent this from occurring? Have Kangaroos been consuming massive quantities of human crops and great cost to Australian farmers? Have Kangaroos been posing a general hazard to populated areas? Are Kangaroo attacks on humans a frequent occurrence? Does Kangaroo habitat destruction lead to soil erosions that significantly threaten local water supplies? Are car accidents involving Kangaroo frequent? What is the extent of the costs? Can culling be done humanely? Is it a more humane alternative to letting Kangaroo populations expand to the point of at which resources are so depleted that Kangaroos starve to death and their populations crash? Is shooting Kangaroos in the head a humane options among the alternatives? How does it compare to dart euthanasia of Kangaroos? Are there alternatives that need to be considered before culling Kangaroos, such as the translocation of Kangaroo populations to other habitats in Australia, sterilization of Kangaroos, and artificially feeding them? What are the effects of Kangaroo cullings on Australia’s sense of the Kangaroo as a national icon? Do cullings negatively affect the tourism industry? Do Kangaroo cullings threaten to make Australia appear hypocritical, in light of the fact that it so vocally opposes Japanese whaling. Do cullings threaten aboriginal culture and historical relations with the Kangaroo?

Habitat: Are Kangaroos significantly damaging habitats and species?

Kangaroos are ruining the habitat of rare lizards and other species

A report released in early 2008 recommended the immediate slaughter of Kangaroos to protect lowland native grasslands and threatened species, such as the grassland earless dragon, the striped legless lizard, and golden sun moth.[1]

Professor Arthur Georges - Institute for Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra. Kangaroos on defence lands: Paralysis in the face of crisis. March 17th, 2008

“The Department of Defence is one of the largest landholders in Australia, and takes its responsibilities for conservation on its lands seriously. Indeed, we can thank them for the very existence of those special places such as Booderee National Park. Some of our best remnants of lowland native grasslands are on Defence lands, but they have been reduced to dust by over-grazing by kangaroos. These grasslands are now denied the opportunity to recover following our recent rains. Until the construction of a fence at great public expense, the endangered species in these grasslands at Majura faced decimation. At the Belconnen Naval Site, the kangaroo population and its grassland food resource at Belconnen faces imminent collapse, with 500 kangaroos occupying an area more suited to supporting 100, and that population grows each year. The problem of overgrazing of our native grasslands on these Defence lands is now urgent and requires an immediate response.”

Kangaroos are native to Australia., balanced with ecosystem.

The kangaroo is native to Australia and does not damage the environment. Kangaroos have evolved as Australian animals and have existed in Australia for 16 million years. Their grazing impact is only a fraction of a sheep’s and they have co-evolved to be perfectly adjusted to Australian native grasses and biodiversity. They are not an environmental threat. Kangaroos have a part to play and their feet are gentle on the soil, they help fertilize the land and their needs are frugal. They do not threaten other native species. It seems that Darwin and evolution can be just thrown out the window when inconvenient so that native species can be vilified. The real threat is the number of sheep and cattle in Australia, and our export of meat and dairy products. It was the coming of the European that damaged species and habitats.

Kangaroo culling is for housing development, not species protection.

The case to slaughter kangaroos for the ‘to protect lowland native grasslands and threatened species, such as the grassland earless dragon, the striped legless lizard, and golden sun moth’ in Belconnen, ACT has now shown to be a sham. The kangaroos were slaughtered to make way for a housing development and the way they were killed ‘lethal injection’ was to cover up that the ground was contaminated.

Farmers blame kangaroos for not cooperating with their land.

Kangaroos are just an inconvenience, and we in 220 years since the First Fleet to exist withing the limitations of our natural ecosystems.

Moving Kangaroos resolves issue of habitat and species destruction.

The main justification for the culling of Kangaroos is that they are overpopulating specific areas, which strains the ecosystem of that area and kills species residing there. Why not simply move a portion of the Kangaroo population in an area somewhere else?

Crops: Are Kangaroos significantly damaging crops?

Culling Kangaroo will reduce their consumption of Australian crops.

Kangaroos are breeding quickly and faster than they are dying. They are over-populating, and are running out of food in their natural habitats. This means that they are frequently resorting to Australian crops as a means of sustenance. Culling Kangaroo populations will decrease the resource depletion occurring in their natural habitats, will enable Kangaroos to survive on their natural habits alone and sustainably, and will decrease the necessity of Kangaroos to consume crops as a means of survival. This will save farmers crops, increase their productivity and returns, and generally increase GDP across Australia.

Kangaroo destruction of habitats is causing soil erosion that damages crops.

Soil erosion in the areas where Kangaroos are grazing leads to problems on farms. Typically, it causes undesirable runoff into farm lands.

Kangaroos are not terrorizing wheat crops

– “Other justifications for the kill are that kangaroos are pests who destroy wheat crops and compete with livestock for grazing. The largest study of kangaroos ever conducted, carried out by the University of New South Wales, found that the presence of kangaroos has no negative effects on sheep farms whatsoever. A study carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation found that 95 per cent of wheat crops are never visited by kangaroos and furthermore, Gordon Grigg, one of the most avid supporters of kangaroo slaughter and author of Commercial Harvesting of Kangaroos in Australia, the kangaroo industry’s bible, recently stated that kangaroos’ grazing requirements may have been over-estimated by as much as 500 per cent.”

Moving Kangaroos would address crop destructions in specific areas.

If Kangaroos are eating crops in specific areas, why not move them to other habitats that are capable of housing them and that are not near crops? This is an adequate solution to crop destructions, and avoids the less humane action of culling them.

In society: Is Kangaroo over-population a problem to Australian society in general?

Kangaroos sometimes attack people

Kangaroos attack people in Australia on a statistically regular basis. Because Kangaroo are actually stronger and more powerful than humans, they are both willing to engage in a fight and able to inflict crippling damage and even death. Because over-population increases instances of encounters between Kangaroos and humans, mainly because habit-depletion can force Kangaroo to seek food in urban areas or on farmlands, over-population can actually increase the risk posed by Kangaroos to humans. As such, a culling is capable of reducing the risk Kangaroos pose to humans.

Kangaroos are the cause of costly car accidents

Kangaroo Culling on Defence lands – Fact Sheet":

“These kangaroos have no experience of roads. Every year in the Canberra suburbs more than 1,000 kangaroos are killed by motor vehicles. At least $6 million in damage is caused to vehicles by these accidents and there is a risk of injury to drivers, passengers and damage to other vehicles.”

Kangaroos destroy habitats, causing soil erosion, water contamination

By eating grass and destroying habitats, Kangaroo strip the land of its capacity to hold together, which leads to soil erosion. Soil erosion and run-off often leads to and muddies water supplies. This can be costly and even hazardous to local populations.

Kangaroo shootings can jeopardize public safety.

Kangaroo culling typically take the form of rifle shootings of Kangaroos. If this is taking place in crowded local areas, it can potentially jeopardize the public safety. There is also concern among citizens of Australia that their pets will be put at risk, particularly as pets roam roads and lands, sometimes amidst Kangaroos.

Humaneness: Could the culling of Kangaroos be done humanely?

A Kangaroo culling would humanely prevent a population crash

"Burke defends kangaroo culling". ABC News. Apr 4, 2008:

“Agriculture Minister Tony Burke has defended the culling of hundreds of kangaroos, saying the animals would starve to death if numbers are not reduced. ‘If they are not culled, there will be many more than 400 facing death from starvation,’ he told reporters during a trip to Japan.”

The RSPCA's support for a culling hints that it is in the long-term interests of Kangaroos.

The RSPCA is the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals. This organization always looks into the best interest of animals. If the RSPCA are for the cull, obviously there must be a reason, and that reason is that roos are over-populating, causing problems and are running out of resources.

The meat and skin of culled Kangaroos will not be wasted.

The meat would be utilized for human consumption and pet food, and the pelts for soft toys and other items. These Kangaroos will not simply be killed and wasted. Their lives, meat, and pelts will be put to a use, and this will give meaning to the lives of these kangaroos, making the culling, at least, more humane than if these resources were simply thrown away.

Kangaroo shooting may be preferable to culling by dart-euthanasia

Emeritus Professor Gordon Grigg - University of Queensland. "Kangaroos on defence lands - another view". March 18th, 2008:

“Darting followed by lethal injection sounds simple and humane, and is probably a good option for small numbers of animals. For animals at high density, because you have to be close to shoot the dart and because it takes time for a dart to take effect, the proximity of the shooters and the odd behaviour of the darted individual all contribute to a stressful situation for the other kangaroos which will hop about frantically in great distress.”

Kangaroos are killed for commercial purposes without complaint

It is peculiar that protesters are so vehemently opposed to government-run culls when commercial mass-killings have been occurring for years on a much grander scale. Adidas, for instance, kills Australian kangaroos to make leather for sports shoes. If killing Kangaroos is so bad, why aren’t there more protests against these commercial killings.

The Code of Practice in the ACT helps ensures culls are humane.

This is a set of government guidelines that regulates such things as the accuracy of sharpshooters that kill Kangaroos, ensuring that direct shots to the head occur and result in the instantaneous, painless death of Kangaroos.

Cullings of any kind are cruel to animals.

Murder is cruel, always. Kangaroos have a mind, they feel pain, they don’t want to die. By culling them, we would be going against the perfectly reasonable wish and natural impulse of these animals. This is cruel.

Culling kangaroos is inhumane when humane alternatives exist.

There seem to be good alternatives to a culling that would be a more humane alternative to a culling. One alternative is to move Kangaroos from effected areas to other areas that can easily accommodate them. Some argue that this would be inhumane because it would traumatize Kangaroo. But, it cannot be argued that culling Kangaroo is a more fair and humane option for kangaroo than moving them. The ability of Kangaroo to continue living is obviously better and more humane than merely traumatizing them.

Is is also possible for efforts to be taken to lower the breeding of Kangaroos. If over-population is the problem, perhaps one longer-term response would be to take certain efforts to stem the degree of breeding among Kangaroos. This could take the form of “tying the tubes” of both female and male kangaroo genitalia. While this may be inhumane on one level, again it is certainly a more humane option as compared to the culling of Kangaroo. Creating a physical change in Kangaroo is more humane than killing them outright.

Commercial use of kangaroo meat and leather is unethical

The sale of Australian-Kangaroo Adidas shoes was actually banned in California, USA for 37 years, as well as some other places around the world. These bans are based in a strong case for objecting to the commercial killing of Kangaroos for their meat and for their pelts. The case centers on the notion that Kangaroos are an exceptionally intelligent animal, with a certain historical kinship to humans, that deserve exceptional human compassion.

Darting/euthanasia: Is darting and euthanizing Kangaroo humane?

Kangaroos can be culled humanely through sedation then euthanasia

Cullings can involve dart sedation first, and then euthanasia with lethal injection. Of the many ways to cull an overpopulated animal population, this is the most humane, subjecting Kangaroos to very little physical violence and destructive force. Instead of firing a bullet through the head of a Kangaroo, a gruesome prospect, euthanasia involves darting the animal and than peacefully euthanizing it. By subjecting the Kangaroo to far less physical trauma, Euthanasia is a far more dignified and thus humane process. While the question of the level of pain between cullings that involve shooting Kangaroo and cullings that involve dart/euthanasia can be debated, the question of the dignity of the processes is far less debatable. Blowing a hole through a Kangaroos head is obviously much more violent and less dignified than a dart entering their side and than injecting a poison into them, which keeps the Kangaroo’s body fully intact.

Kangaroo culling by dart-euthanasia can be inhumane

Kangaroo culling by darts for sedation and then with poison to euthanize Kangaroos can actually lead to severe distress, pain, and suffering among individual Kangaroos and groups of Kangaroos. First, due to the lower accuracy of darts, a sharp shooter must be much closer with darts than with bullets, which often disturbs the Kangaroo herd. Second, darts do not kill Kangaroos immediately, nor do they immediately sedate them, creating the potential for the thrashing around of a Kangaroo which results in their injury, suffering, and the general distress of neighboring Kangaroos. Third, a human has to promptly approach the sedated Kangaroo and perform the euthanasia, which distresses and disturbs the Kangaroo herd, often resulting in their thrashing around in distress. This argument need not be seen as a justification of culling Kangaroos by shooting them, but can be read to mean that both shooting and dart/euthanizing Kangaroo populations are inhumane, and so neither should be pursued.

Translocation: Is translocating Kangaroos a poor alternative to culling them?

Translocating Kangaroos in Australia often traumatizes these animals

The New York Times reported on March 14th, 2008, “The Australian Capital Territory government said its commissioner for sustainability and the environment had considered moving the animals but concluded it would traumatize them.”[2]

Translocation of Kangaroos threatens integrity of their new habitat

Introducing any new population into an environment always entails risks to that environment. In the case of Kangaroos, the risk is multifaceted. First, Kangaroos may simply overeat and destroy their new host environment. Second, Kangaroos can carry diseases into their new habitat, which may prove equally devastating.

Translocation often places Kangaroos in a threatening environment

Translocation often thrust Kangaroos into a new environment in which new predators exist and in which the vegetation and diet is unfamiliar to them. This can lead great anxiety and certainly starvation and death of kangaroos. In the end, therefore, it may not save any additional Kangaroos – as compared to culling – and it might also be equally or even more inhumane as culling them in the first place.

Moving massive numbers of Kangaroos is an expensive project.

Herding Kangaroo herds into trucks is not easy, particularly when it involves thousands of Kangaroos. Such a project would require dozens of vehicles and hundreds of government personnel. It is a major project that is obviously much more costly than simply culling Kangaroo.

Kangaroos should just be moved, not culled.

The main justification for the culling of Kangaroos is that they are overpopulating specific areas, which strains the ecosystem of that area or simply concentrates difficulties for local human populations. Why not simply move a portion of the Kangaroo population to an area somewhere else? This would solve both problems.

Translocating Kangaroos is not too difficult or impractical.

Given the size of Australia and range of wildlife and habitats to choose from, translocation can be achieved relatively easily. While it is true that care must be taken to pick the right environments for Kangaroos, this can be continually planned for with a running list of prospective areas into which Kangaroos can be moved. The natural habitats and conditions for the varieties of Kangaroos present in Australia are well documented, and so are the matching characteristics of habitats that don’t currently have substantial Kangaroo populations. Connecting the dots should not be that difficult.

Sterilization: Is sterilization of Kangaroos an inadequate alternative?

Sterilization is not an effective response to Kangaroo over-population

Emeritus Professor Gordon Grigg - University of Queensland. "Kangaroos on defence lands - another view". March 18th, 2008

– “Sterilisation has also been suggested, and that is worth considering proactively, when a population is small, in order to head off the problem before it arises. Sterilisation is a waste of time once the population is large enough to be causing land degradation, because the sterilised individuals will still be there continuing to feed for years to come. Perhaps some selective sterilisation would be worth considering in Canberra after the culling has reduced the numbers sufficiently.” Without culling, sterilization is ineffective to help prevent the problem kangaroos pose in Australia.

Sterilization vaccines can be used instead of killing Kangaroos

Kangaroo Culling on Defence lands – Fact Sheet"

“Defence is implementing an experimental form of fertility control at the fenced Belconnen Naval Transmitter Station, based on research by a partnership involving the University of Newcastle and ACT Parks, Conservation and Lands. The research is aimed at developing a species-specific, orally delivered immunocontraceptive vaccine for eastern grey kangaroos. The vaccine is expected to provide sterility for at least three years.” Sterilizing kangaroos is the most humane way to curb population growth.

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