In Australia, there are an estimated 500 million kangaroos in the wild, though this number has been subject to much debate. Due to land clearing and the subsequent abundance of grass, kangaroo populations have grown and farmers have come to view kangaroos as pests.
In response to the growing population, the Australian government permits licence holders to ‘cull’ or shoot kangaroos.The past 20 years has seen approximately 90 million kangaroos and wallabies lawfully killed for commercial purposes.
There are many issues that arise as a result of the lawful killing of kangaroos. Permits are meant to ensure that kangaroos are killed in a particular manner, in order to minimise their pain and suffering. However, it is very difficult to ensure that kangaroos are killed humanely because widespread culling usually takes place at night.
An even more unfortunate aspect of the cull is that there are a number of baby kangaroos (‘joeys’), who are also killed as part of the process. Guidelines in Australia state that permit holders are to kill any joeys that are found in the pouches of injured or dead adult kangaroos. Whilst this measure is meant to ensure that joeys die more humanely, rather than starving to death, the number of joeys and young kangaroos killed each year as a result of the cull is 1.1 million. This is a huge waste, yet is viewed as collateral damage by the industry.
Finally, because kangaroos are killed in the wild, there are obvious sanitation concerns with the meat that is produced both for human and pet consumption. A number of experiments have recently shown kangaroo meat sampled from various Australian supermarkets to have high levels of bacteria. This could therefore lead to serious health problems for consumers.
Therefore, while kangaroos are native to Australia, they have come to be regarded as pests, despite both their national significance and the ethical concerns that arise as a result of this approach.