World Kangaroo Day

Motions

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:35): I move:

That this council—

1. Notes that 24 October is World Kangaroo Day, celebrating kangaroos and raising awareness about the largest commercial slaughter of land-based wildlife in the world;

2. Acknowledges that loss of habitat, bushfires, drought, predators, legal and illegal hunting, car accidents, fences, and animal cruelty are driving South Australian populations of kangaroos to near extinction; and

3. Recognises that kangaroos cannot be humanely farmed, and that the commercial kangaroo industry relies on hunting wild kangaroos which has significant health and animal welfare concerns.

This motion notes that 24 October, in just a few short weeks, is World Kangaroo Day, and that it celebrates kangaroos and raises awareness about the largest commercial slaughter of land-based wildlife in the world.

This motion acknowledges the loss of habitat, bushfires, drought, predators, legal and illegal hunting, car accidents, fences and animal cruelty that is driving South Australian populations of kangaroos to near extinction. It recognises that kangaroos cannot be humanely farmed and that commercial kangaroo industries rely on hunting wild kangaroos, and that this has not just significant health concerns but animal welfare concerns.

As World Kangaroo Day, 24 October should be a day when we are celebrating our iconic Australian species of kangaroos, but it is not such a happy day for our kangaroos in South Australia at the moment. Through World Kangaroo Day we aim to celebrate kangaroos and raise awareness about the issues raised in this motion. I do not know that many people really know that the kangaroo meat they eat is hunted—hunted, not farmed—in a way that cannot be done humanely. They are hunted in the wild for their meat and skins, with shooters going out, usually at night, in rural communities, and joeys of female kangaroos are either bludgeoned to death or left to die from starvation, exposure and predation. The dependent young are considered ‘waste’ by the kangaroo industry.

Dead kangaroos are loaded into the back of trucks with zero refrigeration and with quite inadequate hygiene conditions. They are eventually transported back and processed for their meat and skins. The justification for this is industry claims that it is sustainable. That justification is flimsy at best. Kangaroos are often portrayed as pests, but the numbers simply do not support this view. I would point out, and I will expand on this later, that current methods for counting kangaroos in South Australia are, in fact, farcical.

Let me be clear: kangaroos are disappearing. Between 2018 and 2019, red kangaroo numbers declined by between 71 per cent and 82 per cent in parts of South Australia. Most of South Australia’s kangaroo populations can be considered at risk of extinction. It is not an issue unique to South Australia. In New South Wales, between 2016 and 2019, grey kangaroos in one region alone declined by 98 per cent. In another part of New South Wales, red kangaroo numbers declined by 95 per cent, and in some parts of Queensland, kangaroos have disappeared altogether.

Beyond that, it is bizarre to many that kangaroos are considered a pest and are often labelled as such when they are being blamed for damage caused by livestock. Kangaroos are soft-footed, which means they do not damage the environment, but also a kangaroo’s tail and feet actually regenerate native grasses by helping to push seeds into the soil. Further, studies have shown that sheep and cattle produce substantially and consistently greater changes to native vegetation than grazing kangaroos, and kangaroos only rarely visit crops or compete with grazing sheep and cattle except for when their food is already scarce.

It is also unclear how kangaroos could breed enough to become a pest species. Kangaroos have one baby a year and a joey stays in the pouch for some 11 months. Kangaroos do not breed during droughts and 25 per cent to 35 per cent of joeys do not live to adolescence. A further 70 per cent to 75 per cent do not make it to adulthood. On top of this, kangaroos face many other threats: loss of habitat, bushfires, drought, predators and, as I said, legal and illegal hunting.

It is a myth that kangaroos are overabundant in our state. The way the department currently counts their populations simply does not stack up. Further, we know that most of South Australia’s kangaroo populations are low or very low density. Red kangaroos are low or very low density in 10 out of 11 harvest zones, and western grey kangaroos are low to very low density in nine out of 14 harvest zones. More than half of South Australia’s red kangaroo populations are at risk of extinction, and six out of the 14 western grey kangaroo populations are at risk of extinction.

So why is World Kangaroo Day necessary? It is time to raise awareness. Why are we killing these iconic creatures? The answers can be found in the South Australian Commercial Kangaroo Management Plan 2020-2024. The plan itself states, ‘The primary goal of this plan is to ensure an ecologically sustainable harvest of kangaroos and to provide an alternative management option for reducing the damage caused by overabundant kangaroos.’

However, no study or report was produced to confirm the kangaroo damage alleged in the South Australian Commercial Kangaroo Management Plan 2020-2024. Believe me, my office has put significant effort into trying to find this evidence up until the department eventually confirmed that they did not have any specific evidence or documentation demonstrating any damage attributable to kangaroos. There is not enough data in South Australia to link kangaroo abundance directly to vegetation condition. There is simply no evidence that kangaroos need to be culled. The commercial culling of kangaroos is simply to supply a commercial industry.

The chief executive of the Department for Environment and Water, Mr John Schutz, observed that the outcomes of the commercial harvesting system are primarily driven by market demand factors domestically and internationally. There is no evidence to support the government’s current position that the commercial killing of kangaroos is sustainable in South Australia.

Leading scientists conclude that kangaroo populations of less than 10 kangaroos per square kilometre should not be culled or harvested, because the population is likely to fall below the critical level. Red kangaroos and western grey kangaroos should not be killed in South Australia under any circumstances. All South Australia’s red kangaroo and western grey kangaroo populations are presently less then 10 kangaroos per square kilometre, yet from conservation legislation the South Australian government runs an ecologically unsustainable commercial kangaroo industry.

The South Australian Department for Environment and Water decides how many kangaroos can be killed in each commercial subregion. That number to be killed is called a quota. The quota system adopted in South Australia uses higher percentages than what is considered sustainable by scientists. The quota system ignores changes in the environment such as drought. When kangaroo numbers decline during drought, the kill quotas become double what is scientifically sustainable. South Australia also kills twice as many female kangaroos than what is considered sustainable by scientists.

There is also the issue of how the kangaroos are killed. Many people, I would assume, like to think that these animals, if they are to be killed, are killed humanely, but unfortunately this is simply not the case. The National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes requires shooters to kill adult kangaroos with a head shot to the brain. However, shooters remove kangaroo heads and leave them in the bush. It is impossible for authorities to know whether kangaroos are killed by a head shot or neck shot, which is extremely painful and requires a second shot to ensure death.

An independent assessment of compliance with the code, carried out by Animal Liberation NSW between 2005 and 2008, identified an average of 40 per cent of kangaroos per chiller in 24 chillers throughout New South Wales and Queensland were neck shot. Neck-shot kangaroos may suffer that painful death, which is a clear transgression of the humane practices and code guidelines.

An ABC reporter spent a night with a kangaroo shooter, who came home with 16 dead kangaroos. The shooter shot 18 kangaroos but two escaped, and the shooter was unable to find the injured kangaroos. No-one knows how many kangaroos are injured and disappear into the bush to die those slow, painful deaths, and injured kangaroos are never recorded or acknowledged by the commercial industry.

This is not a healthy industry. Kangaroos are wild animals, shot in remote locations during the night, making contamination of kangaroo meat unavoidable. Kangaroo carcasses and mincemeat from South Australian meat processing plants were tested in 2002 and 2004: E. coli was found in 70 per cent. In minced kangaroo meat salmonella was detected in 18 per cent of those samples. Kangaroo meat contains high levels of L-carnitine, which causes the build-up of plaque in arteries, responsible for heart attacks, strokes and vascular disease.

Pets also can become sick from bacteria and pathogens found in kangaroo meat. Raw kangaroo pet mince is preserved with toxic sulphites. These sulphites cause thiamine deficiency in pets, which of course can be fatal. In recent media reports interstate we have seen those issues brought to the fore. I think most would agree that this does not paint a pretty picture, certainly not for the kangaroos and certainly not for people.

It is hard to believe that we would create an industry out of killing these iconic animals. I note that there is some confusion and concern about this practice amongst the international community, to the extent that kangaroo products are banned in such places as California. As we approach World Kangaroo Day, on 24 October, I urge all to reflect on this industry and to commit to caring for our kangaroos and not killing them.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.J. Stephens.