Kan­ga­roo Fact Check

The Kan­ga­roo In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­tralia has fact checked the main claims made in the doc­u­men­tary.

Field and Game - - KANGAROO FILM DIVIDES -

Sus­tain­able man­age­ment

CLAIM 1: Loss of habi­tat, ur­ban devel­op­ment, agri­cul­tural prac­tices and con­tin­u­ing in­dus­trial-scale slaugh­ter elim­i­nate kan­ga­roos across vast re­gions where his­tor­i­cal records de­scribed them as once wide­spread and abun­dant.

PARTLY TRUE: While some kan­ga­roo and wal­laby species have de­clined in num­bers due to the im­pact of hu­mans on their habi­tats, other species have ben­e­fited and in­creased in pop­u­la­tion size. Only four species of kan­ga­roo with large pop­u­la­tions are per­mit­ted to be har­vested — the West­ern grey kan­ga­roo, East­ern grey kan­ga­roo, Com­mon wal­la­roo and Red kan­ga­roo.

CLAIM 2: Kan­ga­roos grow and breed slowly and have high ju­ve­nile mor­tal­ity. For ex­am­ple, a Grey Kan­ga­roo doe can pro­duce up to eight joeys in her life­time, with just two likely to sur­vive to in­de­pen­dence.

PARTLY TRUE: Fe­male kan­ga­roos breed slowly in drought con­di­tions and con­tin­u­ously un­der good con­di­tions. They can pro­duce up to three young si­mul­ta­ne­ously at dif­fer­ent stages of devel­op­ment. Most kan­ga­roos mate within a few days of giv­ing birth to en­sure a new birth can oc­cur very soon af­ter the first young ex­its the pouch, tak­ing ad­van­tage of good con­di­tions. Grey kan­ga­roos dif­fer in that they tend to breed sea­son­ally and, there­fore, pro­duce fewer young.

CLAIM 3: Max­i­mum wild pop­u­la­tion growth rates av­er­age 10 per cent in op­ti­mal con­di­tions, with an­nual de­clines of up to 60 per cent dur­ing drought recorded. It is bi­o­log­i­cally im­pos­si­ble for kan­ga­roo pop­u­la­tions to in­crease rapidly.

PARTLY TRUE: An av­er­age 10 per cent an­nual in­crease in kan­ga­roo num­bers could be con­sid­ered rapid growth. A 10 per cent in­crease on 2016 pop­u­la­tion num­bers of har­vested species would equate to around 470 000 ad­di­tional kan­ga­roos. Ex­ist­ing pop­u­la­tions of some species in cer­tain ar­eas are al­ready con­sid­ered to be un­sus­tain­able. CLAIM 4: Shoot­ing quo­tas of 15–20 per cent or more of pop­u­la­tion es­ti­mates ex­ceed ac­tual kan­ga­roo pop­u­la­tion growth rates.

FALSE: The com­mer­cial kan­ga­roo har­vest takes place un­der reg­u­la­tions that al­low a quota of 10–20 per cent of the es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion to be taken each year. The num­ber of kan­ga­roos that are ac­tu­ally har­vested has been much less (around 65 per cent of the al­low­able quota) since 2001.

Har­vest­ing quo­tas are set by state wildlife man­age­ment agen­cies based on cur­rent pop­u­la­tion es­ti­mates as well as the mod­elled im­pact of cur­rent and pro­jected cli­mate on num­bers to pro­tect pop­u­la­tions from over-har­vest­ing.

CLAIM 5: Anal­y­sis shows crit­i­cally flawed kan­ga­roo sur­vey method­olo­gies sys­tem­at­i­cally in­flate pop­u­la­tion es­ti­mates from which com­mer­cial shoot­ing quo­tas are then over-al­lo­cated.

FALSE: Pop­u­la­tion es­ti­mates are based on aerial and ground sur­veys in the ar­eas within Aus­tralia where com­mer­cial har­vest­ing oc­curs. The ac­tual na­tional pop­u­la­tions would be sig­nif­i­cantly higher as these fig­ures do not in­clude es­ti­mates for ar­eas not sur­veyed.

Quo­tas may be modified dur­ing the year based on sea­sonal con­di­tions, the re­sults of ad­di­tional sur­veys and mon­i­tor­ing of the har­vest through­out the year. Re­stric­tions may be placed on the har­vest such as clos­ing cer­tain ar­eas down or plac­ing weight and size lim­its on the an­i­mals en­ter­ing the in­dus­try. CLAIM 6:

Con­sid­er­a­tion of com­mer­cial shoot­ing im­pacts on kan­ga­roo pop­u­la­tions has never

in­cluded mil­lions of kan­ga­roos ad­di­tion­ally shot by landown­ers and il­le­gal shoot­ing. Other ma­jor mor­tal­ity fac­tors are also ig­nored.

FALSE: Since the late 1970s, har­vest quo­tas have been based upon pop­u­la­tion es­ti­mates ob­tained pri­mar­ily from aerial sur­veys, with some con­sid­er­a­tion be­ing given to fac­tors such as over­all pop­u­la­tion trends, cli­matic con­di­tions and trends in var­i­ous har­vest sta­tis­tics, in­clud­ing carcass weight, sex ra­tio, skin size and the size of the over­all off­take. In its re­port en­ti­tled Re­view of Kan­ga­roo

Man­age­ment, March 1990, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the US Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice found that: “Ad­e­quate leg­is­la­tion ex­ists in all States and Ter­ri­to­ries of Aus­tralia for the pro­tec­tion of the Red kan­ga­roo, the East­ern grey kan­ga­roo and the West­ern grey kan­ga­roo. There does not ap­pear to be any large-scale il­le­gal killing of kan­ga­roos be­ing con­ducted in any of the States of Aus­tralia hav­ing a com­mer­cial ex­port kill quota for kan­ga­roos.”

CLAIM 7: Gov­ern­ment sur­vey data and com­mer­cial shoot­ing sta­tis­tics il­lus­trate de­clin­ing pop­u­la­tions and land­scapes now sig­nif­i­cantly de­pleted of kan­ga­roos. FALSE: Pop­u­la­tion es­ti­mates for the four har­vested species fluc­tu­ated be­tween 17 mil­lion and 57 mil­lion be­tween 1980 and 2009. In 2016, the pop­u­la­tion in com­mer­cial har­vest zones was es­ti­mated at 47.2 mil­lion.

Hu­mane treat­ment

CLAIM 8: Shoot­ing oc­curs away from any scru­tiny and in dark­ness when non­lethal shots are in­evitable, of­ten caus­ing hor­rific in­juries. Ev­i­dence sug­gests 4 to 40 per cent of com­mer­cially shot an­i­mals are not shot di­rectly in the brain but in the neck or body. This equates to be­tween 65 284 and 652 839 an­i­mals mis-shot in 2015. Un­known fur­ther num­bers of mis-shot kan­ga­roos are left to die in the field by com­mer­cial and non-com­mer­cial shoot­ers.

FALSE: The har­vest oc­curs at dusk and at night, be­cause this is when kan­ga­roos are most ac­tive. Shoot­ers are skilled and li­cenced pro­fes­sion­als with a high ac­cu­racy rate. About 97 per cent of all kan­ga­roos tar­geted by pro­fes­sional har­vesters were killed in­stan­ta­neously in ac­cor­dance with reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ments ac­cord­ing to a 2014 study.

Of the one mil­lion kan­ga­roos in­spected by Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment vet­eri­nar­i­ans in 2014, only 25 were re­ported as not hav­ing been shot in the head. CLAIM 9: The na­tional Code of Prac­tice re­quires shoot­ers to shoot at-foot joeys and de­cap­i­tate or “crush the skull and de­stroy the brain” of pouch young. TRUE: To ad­dress con­cerns about the wel­fare of joeys, the KIAA in­tro­duced a male-only pol­icy in 2013. Although blunt trauma to the head may be seen as cruel and vi­o­lent by ob­servers and may be un­pleas­ant to per­form from the an­i­mal’s per­spec­tive, the du­ra­tion and ex­tent of suf­fer­ing is much less than other meth­ods. The du­ra­tion of dis­tress prior to the use of blunt trauma is also likely to be less com­pared with other meth­ods (such as over­dose with bar­bi­tu­rate).

The Code of Prac­tice is cur­rently be­ing re­viewed through a pro­ject led by Agri­fu­tures Aus­tralia. The re­view is be­ing in­formed through a ref­er­ence group of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Aus­tralian Ve­teri­nary As­so­ci­a­tion, the RSPCA, in­dus­try and rel­e­vant gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

CLAIM 10: Re­search con­firms most de­pen­dent at-foot joeys are left in the field to suf­fer ex­po­sure, star­va­tion, or pre­da­tion, and that pouch joeys’ heads are gen­er­ally swung against ve­hi­cles.

TRUE: To ad­dress con­cerns about the wel­fare of joeys, the KIAA in­tro­duced a male-only pol­icy in 2013. Of the 24 youn­gat-foot that were ob­served in a 2014 study by Agri­fu­tures Aus­tralia in 2014, only one was eu­thanised with a shot to the head. The rea­sons for har­vesters not killing at­foot joeys de­spite the re­quire­ment in the Code of Prac­tice in­clude:

• Young of­ten for­age some dis­tance from the mother and can be dif­fi­cult to see.

• They tend to flee when their mother has been shot and are dif­fi­cult to catch.

• If there are a num­ber of young in the vicin­ity, it is dif­fi­cult to know which one be­longs to the mother.

• Some har­vesters don’t like us­ing blunt

trauma on the larger joeys but con­sider shoot­ing at close range to be too danger­ous. • Some joeys are deemed large enough

to sur­vive on their own. Large pouch young were killed by a sin­gle force­ful blow to the head, which in­cluded a large rock, heavy ob­ject or ve­hi­cle. This is in ac­cor­dance with the Code of Prac­tice.

CLAIM 11: Joeys killed or left to die are not recorded. Around 8 mil­lion de­pen­dent joeys are es­ti­mated to have died due to com­mer­cial shoot­ing in the pe­riod 2000–2009. More than 110 000 joeys died from com­mer­cial shoot­ing alone in 2015 based on re­ported fig­ures.

PARTLY TRUE: The num­ber of joeys killed are not recorded, there­fore, the above es­ti­mates can­not be based in fact. How­ever, since the KIAA in­tro­duced its male-only pol­icy in 2013, less than 5 per cent of the kan­ga­roos it har­vests have been fe­male. This has sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced the num­ber of joeys killed.

Health stan­dards

CLAIM 12: 75 per cent of emerg­ing hu­man pathogens orig­i­nate in wildlife. Kan­ga­roo is a wild bush­meat sold in su­per­mar­kets and restau­rants. It is not tested for the many hu­man-harm­ing pathogens it har­bours. FALSE: Kan­ga­roo car­casses are all sub­ject to an in­de­pen­dent post mortem in­spec­tion by Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources of­fi­cials called Food Safety Meat Asses­sors or a third-party meat in­spec­tor un­der the su­per­vi­sion of a de­part­men­tal ve­teri­nar­ian prior to be­ing passed fit for hu­man con­sump­tion.

All reg­is­tered ex­port es­tab­lish­ments are re­quired to par­tic­i­pate in the Na­tional Car­case Mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy Mon­i­tor­ing Pro­gram, which in­volves test­ing con­ducted by NATA ac­cred­ited lab­o­ra­to­ries, un­der the Ex­port Con­trol (Wild Game Meat and Wild Game Meat Prod­ucts) Or­ders 2010 and Amend­ment Or­ders 2014. In ad­di­tion to the mi­cro­bi­o­log­i­cal sam­pling, Meat Hy­giene As­sess­ments and Process mon­i­tor­ing is con­ducted. Cook­ing meat also de­stroys bac­te­ria such as sal­mo­nella, cam­ply­obac­ter and E. coli. It is rec­om­mended that kan­ga­roo meat, like most meats, be cooked be­fore eat­ing. CLAIM 13: Wild kan­ga­roos are shot and butchered in the field with­out su­per­vi­sion. They are trans­ported on un­re­frig­er­ated open trucks ex­posed to dust and flies and fre­quently high am­bi­ent tem­per­a­tures. PARTLY TRUE: To en­sure wild game car­casses and wild game meat are whole­some, op­er­a­tors need to main­tain ap­pro­pri­ate hy­giene. Field pro­ces­sors must en­sure that their ve­hi­cles and equip­ment:

• are cleaned and sani­tised when­ever nec­es­sary to pre­vent con­tam­i­na­tion of wild game meat and wild game meat prod­ucts;

• are clean be­fore op­er­a­tions be­gin each day, and are cleaned at the end of op­er­a­tions each day; and

• if there is more than one shift in a day, are dry cleaned at the end of each shift are kept in a good state of re­pair. The Kan­ga­roo In­dus­tries As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­tralia com­plies with all health and safety reg­u­la­tions. Game meat har­vester ve­hi­cles are rou­tinely checked by the Food Au­thor­ity for com­pli­ance with re­quire­ments.

CLAIM 14: There have been re­peated find­ings of con­tam­i­nated kan­ga­roo meat over many years. In 2014 Rus­sia banned kan­ga­roo meat im­ports for a third time due to path­o­genic con­tam­i­na­tion. Acetic acid is rou­tinely used to cleanse the meat of sys­temic con­tam­i­na­tion.

FALSE: Glob­ally, there has never been a doc­u­mented case of ill­ness due to E. coli or sal­mo­nella from the con­sump­tion of kan­ga­roo meat. In 2014, Rus­sia banned the im­port of meat, fish and dairy from the EU, US, Aus­tralia, Canada and Nor­way in re­sponse to in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions. Kan­ga­roo ex­ports were af­fected by this ban. Food Stan­dards Aus­tralian New Zealand al­lows the use of pro­cess­ing aids such as acetic acid and they are widely used in Aus­tralia. No pro­cess­ing aids are used for EU mar­kets.

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