Kan­ga­roo film di­vides

Doc­u­men­tary film Kan­ga­roo — A love-hate story has been screened around the world and its lim­ited re­lease in Aus­tralia co­in­cides with a cam­paign against com­mer­cial har­vest­ing.

Field and Game - - KANGAROO FILM DIVIDES -

Aus­tralia’s kan­ga­roo in­dus­try gen­er­ates more than $200 mil­lion an­nu­ally and em­ploys 2000 peo­ple.

The doc­u­men­tary pur­ports to cover all sides of the de­bate but it has come un­der at­tack from the Na­tional Farm­ers Fed­er­a­tion, aca­demics and the Aus­tralian Kan­ga­roo In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion.

Greens an­i­mal wel­fare spokesper­son Sen­a­tor Lee Rhi­an­non led a del­e­ga­tion to the Eu­ro­pean Par­lia­ment for a screen­ing of the film. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing her were New South Wales MP Mark Pear­son (An­i­mal Jus­tice Party) and ecol­o­gist Dr Dror Ben-ami, who ap­pears on the doc­u­men­tary.

Dr Ben-ami is one of four mem­bers of THINKK, a group funded by an­i­mal pro­tec­tion char­ity Voice­less, who ap­pear in the doc­u­men­tary, which in­cludes ar­gu­ments kan­ga­roo num­bers are in rapid de­cline and some species could be driven close to ex­tinc­tion by har­vest­ing.

This is not new: the group’s lit­er­a­ture came un­der at­tack in a 2011 pa­per ti­tled ‘THINKK again: get­ting the facts straight on kan­ga­roo har­vest­ing and con­ser­va­tion’, by Cooney R, Archer M, Baum­ber A, Ampt P, Wil­son G, Smits J, Webb G. (2011).

They de­scribed an eval­u­a­tion of the en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits of other meats vs kan­ga­roo meat as “nei­ther well-rea­soned or ac­cu­rate” based on a re­view of avail­able lit­er­a­ture. The aca­demics’ view was that the re­search made an in­ac­cu­rate and po­ten­tially mis­lead­ing con­tri­bu­tion to sci­en­tific, le­gal and so­cial de­bate on kan­ga­roo man­age­ment and raised ques­tions about the fund­ing of re­search by in­ter­est groups.

THINKK re­sponded with: Thought again: fair crit­i­cism or a mud­dle-headed grand­stand­ing?, which ac­cused its crit­ics of a closer than ‘arm’s length’ re­la­tion­ship with the kan­ga­roo in­dus­try. The doc­u­men­tary is a cine­matic re­peat of the same process. Sen­a­tor Rhi­an­non (who paid her own way to the EU pre­miere) used the oc­ca­sion to at­tack the ‘re­tail’ end of the equa­tion. “We will use the ev­i­dence to show that kan­ga­roos are in trou­ble,” she said. “Myths about kan­ga­roos are un­crit­i­cally re­peated as facts in Aus­tralia and abroad, which pro­vides so­cial and po­lit­i­cal li­cence to keep shoot­ing these an­i­mals be­yond their re­pro­duc­tive ca­pac­ity.”

Ac­tivists have taken to tar­get­ing the re­tail­ers and end users of prod­ucts; in the case of kan­ga­roo, a cou­ple of smaller su­per­mar­ket chains have stopped sell­ing them af­ter lengthy cam­paigns.

A decade ago, Ital­ian cloth­ing gi­ant Benet­ton was sub­jected to what it called a “grue­some cam­paign” link­ing its fash­ion to the prac­tice of mulesing in Aus­tralia. Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud told The Aus­tralian Sen­a­tor Rhi­an­non’s Eu­ro­pean mis­sion was “ab­so­lute in­san­ity”. “It’s ab­so­lutely dis­gust­ing that she would go over there and try to de­stroy the kan­ga­roo in­dus­try that has huge po­ten­tial for jobs in re­gional Aus­tralia but also for our in­dige­nous Aus­tralians,” he said. Ac­cord­ing to the fed­eral En­vi­ron­ment Depart­ment only four species of kan­ga­roo are ap­proved for com­mer­cial har­vest and ex­port — the red, east­ern grey, west­ern grey and com­mon wal­la­roo or euro — and none of them are listed as a threat­ened species un­der na­tional en­vi­ron­ment law, or un­der state or ter­ri­tory leg­is­la­tion.

No ad­verse long-term im­pacts on kan­ga­roo pop­u­la­tions have been iden­ti­fied af­ter more than 30 years of har­vest­ing un­der com­mer­cial man­age­ment plans, a time­frame that in­cludes sev­eral pe­ri­ods of se­vere drought.

The pop­u­la­tion of the har­vested species in com­mer­cial har­vest zones in 2016 was es­ti­mated at 47.2 mil­lion.

While the facts are be­ing hotly de­bated in Aus­tralia, over­seas the doc­u­men­tary is be­ing crit­i­cally ac­claimed rather than crit­i­cally as­sessed.

En­ter­tain­ment mag­a­zine and web­site Va­ri­ety said: “Kan­ga­roo will be read by many view­ers as eco-ac­tivist film­mak­ing. In the same way doc­u­men­taries such as The Cove and Black­fish have al­tered pub­lic per­cep­tions and of­fi­cial poli­cies on marine ecol­ogy, this doc has the po­ten­tial to help bring kan­ga­roo wel­fare and man­age­ment into much sharper fo­cus in Aus­tralia and in­ter­na­tion­ally.” The New York Times said the film “ex­poses a wildlife mas­sacre”. It could just as eas­ily have fo­cused on the sus­tain­able use of wildlife but it did not. Just more ev­i­dence of the cul­ture war be­ing waged by an­ti­hunt­ing and an­i­mal rights ex­trem­ist. As lawyer and ethics lec­turer, Michael G. Sab­beth ob­served on the Hun­ters’ Lead­er­ship Fo­rum re­cently over a black bear hunt­ing ban in part of Canada: “Given that anti-hun­ters are driven by emo­tion, nar­cis­sism, ig­no­rance and a patho­log­i­cal pas­sion to feel good about one­self, we have to cul­ti­vate dif­fer­ent strate­gies. As I’ve noted in other ar­ti­cles for this web­site, we will not win by merely shar­ing sci­en­tific data and ad­vanc­ing ev­i­dence-based de­ci­sion mak­ing. I am com­pelled to con­clude that the an­i­mal we re­ally need to un­der­stand bet­ter is the hu­man one.”

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