Understanding the issues: kangaroo shooting.

Each night in Australia, kangaroo families flee in terror as they’re chased down by hunters in utes. These iconic native animals are being slaughtered at an alarming rate to supply the lucrative meat and skin trade.
Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated 7 December 2021

Hidden cruelty

Due to the remote locations where the commercial kangaroo shoot takes place, there is no effective monitoring of animal welfare. Nobody is tracking how many animals are being wounded but escape, only to endure a long and painful death. The kangaroo industry ‘Code of Practice’ requires that animals are killed by a single shot to the head, but even conservative estimates suggest that more than tens of thousands of the adult kangaroos commercially ‘processed’ each year are not killed in this manner.[1]

An independent assessment of compliance with the Code, carried out by Animal Liberation between 2005 and 2008 identified an average of 40% of kangaroos killed throughout New South Wales and Queensland were shot in the neck, indicating these animals may have suffered a painful death.[2]

Once again, we have a cruel animal industry that continues only because it can operate without public scrutiny. Tonight, while you are sleeping peacefully, out in the Australian bush the peaceful existence of thousands of gentle animals will end violently — for the sake of profit.

A commercial slaughter

It is often claimed that kangaroos are shot because they compete with grazing animals — but this mass slaughter is purely and simply a commercial kill of Australian wildlife. In 2019, 1.57 million kangaroos were killed for the commercial industry.[3] It’s important to note that this figure does not include “by-kill”, such as joeys who will die when their mothers are killed, and so the true death toll is likely to be much higher

Some skins and meat products are used domestically (a proportion of kangaroo meat goes into the Australian ‘pet food’ market), and the rest is exported to other countries (two-thirds to Europe) as leather or meat for human consumption.[4] Kangaroo leather – kangaroo skin – is widely used in the manufacture of sporting shoes and gloves as well as in dress shoes and accessory manufacture.

Orphaned joeys

The impact on joeys, who are too small to be of any commercial value to hunters – and who are unable to survive without their mothers – is devastating.  ‘In pouch’ joeys of shot mothers are either decapitated (if very small) or killed by being bludgeoned to death. ‘At foot’ joeys, while mobile, are still completely dependent on their mums. These vulnerable babies are left confused and alone when their mothers are killed and, if able to be caught, will be brutally killed and disposed of. 

If they manage to escape they face prolonged physical and emotional suffering, and will ultimately die by starvation, exposure or predation

The mother and joey bond is immensely strong. Red kangaroos are not weaned until a year after birth and Eastern and Western Grey kangaroos are not weaned until they are nearly 18 months old. It has been estimated that as many as 440,000 dependent young kangaroos in New South Wales and Queensland are either clubbed to death every year, or left to starve after their mothers are killed.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

Shooters bludgeon an at-food joey to death.
Image credit: Kangaroo: The Movie

An at-foot joey bludgeoned to death. Source: Kangaroo: The Movie 

An iconic species at risk?

The commercial slaughter of kangaroos in Australia is the largest commercial killing of land-based wildlife on the planet. Kangaroos and joeys feature heavily in tourism adverts and attract visitors the world over who delight in seeing these beloved animals – and who are invariably horrified to discover the callous way they are treated by state and federal governments.

As highlighted in the acclaimed documentary film ‘Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story’, scientists warn that estimates of kangaroo numbers in Australia are way off-target, with faulty counting methods hugely inflating the estimated national population of kangaroos. If kangaroos continue to be shot, injured and killed at the current rate allowed by the Australian federal and state governments, on top of the risks wildlife face due to habitat destruction and the climate crisis, we may face a future where this iconic native animal is nothing but a memory.

A damning report recently commissioned by wildlife groups confirmed fears that the ongoing slaughter of kangaroos could be putting the species at risk. The independent analysis compiled by biostatistician Claire Galea concluded that state authorities used “insufficient” data to justify the slaughter of kangaroos, and accused modelling relied upon by authorities as “scientifically wrong” and “completely unreliable”.

As a statistician, I have no confidence in [the NSW government’s] population estimates... The data should have never been published, it's completely unreliable.
Claire Galea, Biostatistician

Grubby reality of kangaroo meat exposed

A two-year investigation — conducted by the Wildlife Protection Association of Australia (WPAA) and Animal Liberation, and based on information provided by a kangaroo industry ‘whistleblower’ — found evidence of unsustainable and damning practices in the kangaroo industry. Some twenty-four chillers (holding facilities for carcasses) around New South Wales and Southern Queensland were inspected and samples from carcasses were taken for testing. 

A subsequent report undertaken by wildlife ecologist Dr Dror Ben-Ami outlined the myriad health risks associated with how the bodies of kangaroos are stored and processed. He noted evidence of kangaroo bodies being left in remote chillers for nearly two weeks, and testing revealing that kangaroo carcasses were contaminated by dangerous bacteria including E.coli, Streptococcus and Staphylococcus.

2020’s powerful documentary, “Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story” exposed the reality of Australia’s kangaroo shooting industry to the world.

State-based permit killing

In addition to the commercial industry, many kangaroos and wallabies are killed each year under State ‘permit’ systems. For example, in Victoria the state government issues killing permits (called Authority to Control Wildlife System – ATCWS) to landholders. Prior to 2013, some 40,000 to 60,000 kangaroos would be killed each year, and the majority of these slaughtered kangaroos were buried or left onsite. After the introduction in 2013 of a ‘Pet Food Trial’ in Victoria, landholders can now contract commercial shooters to kill and remove kangaroos shot under the ATCWS. Predictably the numbers now being shot have increased drastically, with the latest quota allowing 130,000 kangaroos to be slaughtered commercially in 2022.[5]

In 2014, the Queensland government started issuing ‘fast-tracked’ permits to allow landholders to kill up to 1,000 kangaroos per property — with no requirement for a site inspection and no limit on the number of consecutive permits that could be approved.

Dismal welfare outcomes abound, as these permits do not require shooting-skills testing for landholders or routine monitoring of their activity. Amateur or infrequent shooters are also less likely to be proficient, have correct firearms and ammunition, or be trained in how to manage injured kangaroos or dependent joeys.


What you can do to help kangaroos

  1. Call for an end to the commercial slaughter of kangaroos.
  2. Watch the powerful documentary ‘Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story’ and raise awareness amongst your friends, family and community.
  3. Don’t buy kangaroo meat, ‘leather’ or fur products.

references

[1] A Survey of the Extent of Compliance with the Requirements of the Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos Prepared for Environment Australia by RSPCA Australia, July 2002

[2] A Shot in the Dark, A Report on Kangaroo Harvesting – Prepared by Dror Ben-Ami, PhD On behalf of Animal Liberation NSW, 2009

[3] Macropod Quotas and Harvest by State: 2019 – Department of Environment

[4] Commercial kangaroo harvesting fact sheet – Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012

[5] Kangaroo harvesting fact sheet – Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, 2022