Photo: Courtesy

The grisly and grainy images that open the jarring documentary Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story are not the most difficult images you’ll ever see in a feature film about animals’ suffering and abuse. That’s not because the callousness evidenced in the film is any less intense than the kind of cruelty on display in The Cove or, as we saw in Trophy on CNN the other night, or because it’s any easier to swallow the killing of kangaroos than the misery that animals endure on factory farms as shown in Forks Over Knives.

It’s because the killing of kangaroos occurs at night. In the cloak of darkness in the remote, rural desert lands of Australia, and it’s hard to see what kind of mayhem is directed at kangaroos in these outposts.

Cruelty depends on our disassociation from it and the concealment of it by the perpetrators. When it’s wrapped in darkness, hidden behind a laboratory wall or a factory farm warehouse, it’s tougher to expose and easier to avoid or forget about in the first place.

But animal-oriented documentaries are throwing back the curtain on so many forms of abuse, and gracefully produced, fast-moving Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story may do for kangaroos what Blackfish did for orcas or At the Fork, Inc. did for animals used in industrial agriculture. They tell the detailed stories we’ve never heard, and demand that we ask tougher questions about our conduct and the history of our exploitation of animals.

The Australians’ relationship with kangaroos is as confusing and contradictory a relationship as any people have with any species. Kangaroos are the symbol of Australia and a national icon there — the most recognized brand ambassador of any nation, after Lady Liberty in New York harbor or France’s Marianne. While there are plenty of advocates for kangaroos in Australia, the public is divided on their treatment. There are also plenty of haters, and they are doing a number on the biggest of the marsupials.

Most Americans and other fans of the culture and countryside of Australia are unaware that nationals there kill three million adult kangaroos and hundreds of thousands of joeys every year, partly as an attempt at “pest control” but also to feed the commercial kangaroo industry.

In an approach that includes a range of perspectives, but amplifies the voices of those who call out ruthless tactics and practices when they see them, Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story, explains the decades-long campaign by farmers and the commercial kangaroo industry — working often in tandem with the Australian government — to demonize these creatures and to create a sort of collective detachment that enables nations to do terrible things to a species. The talented directors, Kate McIntyre Clere and Mick McIntyre, point out that these policies and practices don’t just produce immense cruelty, but they are driving down the numbers of dozens of the 70 or so species in the kangaroo family.

Although the industry claims that killing is a necessary evil, in order to preserve forage in an arid nation with millions of domesticated sheep, the documentarians show a different reality — an inhumane, unsustainable massacre, largely unknown to millions who consider the kangaroos as a startlingly original species worth admiring and protecting.

The Australian National Code of Practice dictates that hunters should shoot kangaroos through the brain to ensure immediate death, but poor nighttime visibility results in a crapshoot when it comes to bullet placement. There seems to be as much crippling as killing. When pregnant and nursing kangaroos are killed, their joeys are killed in savage ways — the collateral damage simply discarded and left to die from exposure to the elements.

Kangaroo products are traded internationally in the form of leather, soccer cleats, meat for human consumption, and pet food. There are now many synthetic alternatives to kangaroo leather, so the rationale of footwear freedom hardly commands our attention. Nike, Adidas, and so many other companies have made the switch to human-made fabrics for our athletic adventures.

While you won’t run into kangaroo meat on many menus, it has its consumer following. But with the animals butchered and dressed in the field, exposed to the dust and heat of punishing outback, foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and E. coli find ready carcasses, turning eating the meat into a gastro-intestinal adventure. Even Russia, not known as tremendously forward-thinking of food safety, has banned kangaroo meat as a food safety hedge.

The continent-wide population of kangaroos dropped by more than 20 million between 2001 and 2010 — from an estimated 57 million to perhaps 34 million. The killing has continued unabated in recent years, and the population is suffering more with the onslaught.

In 2015, despite a strong-armed attempt by the government of Australia and the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia—which included violations of California’s lobbying disclosure laws — The HSUS successfully thwarted efforts in the legislature to keep California’s trade in kangaroo products open. We anticipate there will be continued attempts to revive this trade but major athletic shoe manufacturers and other end-product consumers are moving on and finding alternatives.

“Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story” is in theaters now, and must be the wake-up call we need to reverse mass killing of these beautiful and unique animals. Watch the trailer for the movie.

The post New documentary exposes Australia’s dirty secret – Kangaroos killed by the millions each year appeared first on A Humane Nation.

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(1) comment

The Blunt Bushman
The Blunt Bushman

A future without professional kangaroo harvesting will ultimately fail in animal welfare. I am yet to see this biased film but let’s see if you can recognise animal cruelty. Here is the real truth and not the twisted version that I suspect is being portrayed.
View - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yeyJK9E4I4
For those that can’t, the first kangaroo is still alive and dragged off, the others are gut shot.
It is only amateur shooting that is our shame that shoots to waste or hunt kangaroos without licenses. With wallaby snaring in the top end of the Northern Territory by our armed forces, including Americans and other soldiers that are taught by aboriginals for so called survival training, government paid for exclusion and cell fencing, poisoning or turning off of waters and filling in dams to control kangaroo numbers, all seems to be less impotent to those that still think there meats only comes from the super market shelf that need to get a grip, with wildlife advocacy groups just wanting to suck you in and make money, for this is what I question in relation to their integrity and agenda. Instead propaganda and comments are nearly always directed towards the professional shooters or the processing industry, not once have I heard or read for that matter an article relating only to recreational shooters/ farm hands or just some idiot with a gun, who for sport goes out and shoots kangaroos for fun and as mentioned without a licence, then drives on and shoots the next gut shot Roo without checking for that poor defenceless little joeys that's described.
As professional shooters this does not occur, we inspect the pouch and with decapitation its instant death. Yes, it’s true, it gory and unpleasant but that's the facts. In Australia we have to cull kangaroos but it shouldn’t be to waste and not to be done inhumanely period.
There are two groups that shoot kangaroos. The commercial harvesters that are accredited professionals, that are accountable for animal welfare and meat quality, who are highly regulated and enforced by government authorities and by government meat inspectors. Then there are amateur hunting and shooters that portray a different story. We too have always been arguing for this to change.
Any rogue shooters found doing the wrong thing need to lose their permit rights and firearm license.

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