Two kangaroo standing together in the field and looking towards camera

Victorian Labor is abandoning kangaroos and joeys to horrific cruelty for pet food profits.

Every night in Victoria, joeys and their mums are being terrorised, injured and killed… all for profit.
Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated 11 October 2022

Under cover of darkness, shooters are terrorising kangaroos and their joeys for profit – and the Victorian Labor government is allowing it to happen. You could be forgiven for thinking – are kangaroos protected in Australia?

By day, tourists are being enticed to visit Victoria for “up close and personal” experiences with kangaroos – snapping instagram-worthy photos of these iconic animals peacefully relaxing in their homes, and delighting in spotting joeys’ faces peeking curiously from their mums’ pouches. 

By night, Victoria’s kangaroos and their joeys are fleeing for their lives.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A split image; the left shows tourists visiting resting kangaroos, the right shows a kangaroo being aimed at with a shooting target.
Kangaroos are used to promote tourism in Victoria but by night these iconic animals are targeted for brutal slaughter.
Image credit: Left - VisitVictoria.com, Right - Facebook / Kangaroo Industry - Dirty Graphic Truth

Many people are unaware that in the last three years, the Victorian Labor government has allowed a commercial kangaroo slaughter industry to operate across the state – abandoning these precious native animals to extreme brutality, suffering and slaughter… all for the sake of profit.

Government-sanctioned wildlife cruelty: the truth about kangaroo shooting

The suffering inflicted upon kangaroos and their joeys at the hands of the commercial kangaroo killing industry can not be overstated. Ask any wildlife rescuer or carer about the state of some of the animals they’ve come across after being targeted by shooters, and brace yourself for their harrowing response. 

It’s one thing to allow native animals to be killed – and for many, the thought of kangaroos being killed for any reason is upsetting enough. But the scale of suffering that is caused by locating families of kangaroos with vehicles and shooting at them with rifles is hard to imagine.

Kangaroos are incredibly sensitive animals. So sensitive, in fact, that they’re prone to a condition known as myopathy, a deadly condition that sets in if they have been under extreme stress. Kangaroos rescued from precarious situations by kind-hearted people can die hours or even days later from this condition. It’s so prevalent that it’s illegal to ‘round kangaroos up’ as a method of relocating them – even if done in the interest of their safety and protection, it is simply too dangerous.

Imagine, then, the impact that being shot at with rifles has on the whole mob of kangaroos.

Gun-wielding shooters may use high-powered spotlights or infrared equipment to find kangaroos at night, and then shoot at them with rifles. Although regulations state that animals and cars must be ‘stationary’ before firing (unless the animal is injured)… the vast majority of the time there is no oversight of shooters, who undertake their gruesome activity under the cover of darkness in remote areas or on private properties. 

Entire families will flee for their lives – some might be shot in the head and die quickly. Others will be shot through the face or the neck, the back or stomach. Then if those ones are ‘lucky’, they’ll only suffer in agony for a short while before they are chased down and shot in the head.

Normally they’re in that much pain that they stay down, but this one just kept going.
Professional Kangaroo Shooter
From dusk to dawn: A night in the life of a roo shooter, ABC 2018

The chaos can be even more harmful than the bullets. Panicked animals can become entangled in fencing, or injured as they desperately try to escape, or are hit by cars. Young joeys, completely vulnerable in their mums’ pouch as she is hunted down and killed, will be ripped out and decapitated or smacked against a ute tray until they die.

Older joeys able to hop on their own can be separated from their mums in the panic, and will die a slow death from exposure. Others will watch their mums be slaughtered in front of them before the shooter turns to them.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A clipping from a 'Roo cull cruelty' article from the Midland Express.
Image credit: Midland Express, 27th September 2022

Wildlife rescuers report seeing kangaroos trying to survive with horrific injuries after being shot but escaping. Full article here.

And of course, those who survive all of this face the possibility of a slow death due to the extreme stress, as myopathy sets in and their bodies become paralysed and slowly shut down.

Wildlife rescuers face the constant heartache of having to euthanise injured kangaroos who have been ruthlessly shot at and managed to survive with unimaginable injuries as a result. Carers will rouse multiple times a night to bottle feed traumatised joeys who watched their mums butchered in front of them. These volunteers will devote months to physically and emotionally rehabilitating kangaroos and their joeys only to release them into the wild where they can be legally chased down and shot, their bodies sold for 75 cents a kilogram.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A carer gently holds a rescued kangaroo, safe and wrapped in a blanket.
Wildlife carers essentially become adoptive mums to orphaned joeys whose survival requires delicate, specialised care and intensive physical and emotional support over many months.
Image credit: Red Box Wildlife Shelter

But… kangaroos are native animals. Are kangaroos protected?

Sadly, no. While there is legislation in place that is meant to protect wildlife from harm, there are multiple loopholes that allow federal and state governments to subject native animals to being killed, for reasons that many people would find pretty shocking. Consider, for example, that in Victoria, it’s illegal to shoot native ducks for ‘recreation’ – but the state government has the power to override this, and in fact does so for a period of up to three months (nearly) every year to allow for people to shoot at them purely for fun.

That’s right, they override one of the most basic legal protections for wildlife, so that a tiny minority of people in the state can blast them out of the sky with shotguns.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A split image; the left shows a duck shooter spinning a duck by their neck, the right shows a shooter holding a kangaroo they have killed.
Native waterbirds as well as kangaroos have their ‘protected’ status lifted by the Victorian government so that shooters can kill them.
Image credit: Right - Facebook / Kangaroo Industry - Dirty Graphic Truth

So called kangaroo ‘pest control’?

With that in mind, it probably won’t come as much of a surprise that the Victorian Labor Government allows tens of thousands of native animals (including threatened species) to be slaughtered under its “Authority to Control Wildlife (ATCW)” permit system – a poorly administered and poorly regulated program that strips wildlife of their ‘protected’ status and allows them to be killed if land managers want them gone.

Figures recently released reveal that wombats, kangaroos, possums, emus, waterbirds and wallabies are among the long list of ‘protected’ native animals allowed to be killed – simply for trying to exist in their own home – under this controversial system.

Yet another challenge facing Victoria’s kangaroos

In recent years, the world united in heartbreak and compassion upon seeing kangaroos struggling to survive in apocalyptic conditions following the horrific Black Summer bushfires. Harrowing pictures of kangaroos caught in fencing and burned alive, traumatised joeys who were shielded by the heat and smoke by their mothers’ pouches, broken and fatigued rescuers and wildlife carers working around-the-clock to ease the suffering of so many animals for whom there was no hope of survival.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A kangaroo with her joey who survived bushfires in Australia, standing in burnt bushland.
Victorian kangaroos – like this mother and joey in the aftermath of the black summer bushfires – have endured tremendous challenges in recent years.
Image credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media

Weather extremes are only set to continue, adding to the stress of a species that is already facing the constant pressure of urban sprawl that continues to push them into smaller and smaller pockets of habitat, putting them at greater risk of encounters with predators and vehicles. Their pursuit of safe areas to feed and raise their families then puts them in direct competition with farmers and landowners who see them as a nuisance and apply for easily-obtained ACTW permits – and so the cycle continues.

Mass wildlife slaughter… for money.

In addition to the flawed ATCW permit system, the state government further eroded protections for Victoria’s kangaroos by allowing them to be commercially hunted, going against the wishes of the community and instead bowing to the pressure of the lucrative ‘pet food’ industry.

Commercial kangaroo shooting trials commenced in 2014. In 2018, the Victorian Labor Government’s report of its review of the Kangaroo Pet Food Trial revealed a disturbing level of corruption in the kangaroo ‘pet food’ industry, and made it clear that it cannot be regulated to ensure community expectations are met in relation to the prevention of cruelty to animals.

shooters involved in the Kangaroo Pet Food Trial (KPFT) may be encouraging landholders to apply to control larger numbers under KPFT authorisations, as it provides a greater financial benefit to the shooter.
Kangaroo Pet Food Trial Evaluation Report
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) 2018

The findings of the review were highly disturbing and provided clear evidence that the kangaroo shooting industry is one that inflicts large-scale cruelty away from the public eye, in order to serve the financial interests of a few. The report also found;

  • ATCW permits were being issued not for the ‘management’ of wildlife, but for the slaughter of kangaroos to supply the ‘pet food’ industry
  • Shooters suspected of bribing landowners and farmers falsifying information in order to secure permits to kill kangaroos for their own commercial gain
  • Major offences under the Wildlife Act were identified, including overshooting the authorised number of kangaroos 
  • Reports of shooters encouraging landholders to apply for commercial kangaroo shooting authorisations, providing incentives and even completing applications for them
  • Shooters leaving behind “unsuitable” carcasses – including smaller female carcasses or incorrectly-shot carcasses – on properties and taking another kangaroo (i.e. overshooting) to make it ‘worth their while’
  • Allowing the bodies of kangaroos killed under the ACTW system to be sold commercially posed “an unacceptable risk to the sustainability of kangaroo populations”. 

Tellingly, the report also revealed that the numbers of kangaroos approved for ‘control’ rose sharply in areas marked for the commercial trial – finding that “the trial has resulted in an incentivised increase in kangaroo control under ATCW due to a commercial driver.”

Despite this damning report, in 2019 the Andrews Labor Government proudly announced the ongoing “Kangaroo Management Plan”, allowing kangaroos to be killed for profit. The ‘Kangaroo Management Plan’ not only incentivised kangaroo killing, but made it easier for landowners to kill kangaroos on their property – enabling them to bypass the ATCW system and engage commercial shooters instead.  

Since the commercial slaughter began, the Victorian Labor government has green-lit the deaths of more than one million kangaroos (not including joeys) across the state – and the suffering of many more.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

Young rescued joeys wrapped in blankets.
Girtie (left) is one of the Victorian kangaroo shooting industry’s ‘invisible’ victims. In their final days, she and Murphy sought comfort from each other after their mums were brutally shot and killed.
Image credit: Rescue Rehabilitate Release

What can be done about this?

Industries that profit from animal cruelty are aware that they are only able to operate under a certain level of secrecy, because they know how horrified the community – ultimately, their customers – are when the true extent of their operations are revealed publicly. The kangaroo shooting industry is no different – with shooters operating under the cover of night in remote locations and on private properties, far from the view of caring Victorians.

  • Now that you know, you can stand up for kangaroos and joeys quite simply by ensuring you don’t financially support this cruelty. Pledge to not buy kangaroo meat, ‘pet food’ for your companion animals, or products made with kangaroo skins.
  • If you live in Victoria, now is the time to use your voice for wildlife – with a state election looming, it’s so important that you make your views known about this important issue now more than ever. Consider taking a couple of minutes to send an important message to your State MP today, urging them to protect kangaroos from cruelty.
  • It’s important to note that the Federal Government has a lot to answer for when it comes to the way that kangaroos and joeys are treated – ultimately, the horrific treatment of these animals is enshrined in a National ‘Code of Practice’ for the shooting of kangaroos, and the Federal Government permits the export of kangaroo products (meat and skins) that are killed under State management plans like that underway in Victoria. Speak up about this here.

More ways to help kangaroos today

  • Spread the word! Share this article with family and friends.
  • Contact Australia’s major supermarkets Coles & Woolworths (via feedback form) and ask them to stop supporting the cruel kangaroo killing industry.
  • Check out the Centre for a Humane Economy’s global campaign to dissuade Nike and other major brands from using kangaroo leather in their sports shoes.
  • Learn more about the issue of kangaroo shooting here, or by streaming the acclaimed documentary “Kangaroo: a love hate story”.

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