By ALLISON HORE
To mark the first World Kangaroo day this Saturday, animal activists took to the streets in Sydney to call for a moratorium on kangaroo slaughter.
Saturday’s Sydney protest was just one of many which were held across NSW. Mark Pearson, NSW legislative council member for the Animal justice Party, told City Hub it was a “historic day” as it the first time, internationally, a day has been proclaimed for kangaroos. He said the aim of the day was to change the narrative around kangaroos in Australia.
“What it’s doing is turning around this whole dismissal of kangaroos, thinking that there are so many of them, that they are out of control, that they’re in competition with agribusiness; this is the beginning of them getting their voice back,” he said.
In some parts of Australia, particularly in regional and rural areas, kangaroos are considered to be a pest and thought to have a negative impact on the local ecosystem.
According to the ACT government the loss of top predators which historically preyed on kangaroos, such as thylacines and dingos, has meant that kangaroo populations have grown above a sustainable level. The ground layer grassy vegetation which kangaroos graze on is home to many endemic species of lizards and ground feeding birds. When eaten down, this vegetation no longer provides adequate shelter for these creatures.
But Mr. Pearson says kangaroos “are the ecosystem”. He says it’s hard-hooved livestock like sheep and cattle which does the most damage to the environment and has caused the “most shocking” interference with the ecosystem.
“How can kangaroos be destroying the very thing they are part of,” he said.
In what is seen as a way to control the number of kangaroos, licenses can be granted to hunt kangaroos. These can be commercial licenses for the kangaroo meat and leather industries and non-commercial licenses for farmers looking to control the animals on their properties. But animal activists say the way that kangaroos are being hunted is cruel and exploitative.
“We are exploiting this animal which is on the coat of arms of my parliament, the NSW parliament, which I sit before every day. And yet we’re issuing licenses to kill them,” Mr. Pearson said.
Kangaroo cull moratorium
The Animal Justice party, along with other animal rights groups, are now calling on a moratorium on the killing of kangaroos. They say the habitat destruction and loss of life during the bushfires leaves the nation’s kangaroo population vulnerable, and there’s no reason for the culling. More than 1,000 people have signed a petition in support.
Film-maker and director of not-for-profit group, Kangaroos Alive, Mick McIntyre was also at Sydney’s World Kangaroo Day Event. He told City Hub World Kangaroo Day is not only a day to “celebrate Australia’s magnificent icon” but also to “make people aware of what’s going on.”
He started Kangaroos Alive while making an award-winning documentary film “Kangaroo: A Love Hate Story”. The film took five years to make and he said audiences were “shocked” by it. While overseas audiences mostly supported the message of the film, he said it divided Australians and people were very defensive.
“It was very successful in America and it was very successful in Europe and people were appalled and wanted to know how they could help. It was very positively received,” he said.
“But when we released it in Australia it was very controversial. People didn’t want to face up to the truth, but we’re starting to see a shift in that attitude.”
Mr. Pearson said in the wake of the Black Summer bushfire season and images of fire-affected kangaroos being broadcast around the world, international observers have been asking questions about the plight of Australia’s icon. He said now is the time to make a change.
“The world is looking into our backyard, and when that happens we have to be much more accountable,” he said.
“There’s a dirty, dark little secret in the great southern land and that is the largest massacre of any land dwelling mammal in the world.”