Tuesday, October 23, 2012
While I too would like to see the annual slaughter of dolphins in Taiji come to an end, I feel I must correct a number of misstatements made by Ms. Bowen-Saunders regarding the treatment of kangaroos in Australia.
About kangaroo killing, Ms. Bowen-Saunders says: "I have heard the Japanese defend whaling and dolphin murder by saying Australia is hypocritical for killing kangaroos. This is done, however, when numbers have exploded, the animals have eaten all available food and are often starving. They are shot quickly and cleanly by professional shooters. The majority of the time there is no suffering, and the culls are regulated.
"They are not murdered slowly en masse. Almost all Australian wildlife is protected, and culling is done as a last resort, not for annual amusement."
The killing of kangaroos in Australia is the world's largest land-based animal slaughter. The Australian government has sanctioned the commercial killing of over 5 million kangaroos in 2012 alone. Rather than being "a last resort", kangaroo killing is undertaken on a huge scale and for significant commercial gain. It forms the basis of a multimillion-dollar skin and meat industry.
It is important to note that the annual kangaroo quota does not include the baby kangaroos (joeys) killed when their mothers are shot. Female kangaroos often have a joey in their pouch, as well as one at their feet. It is estimated that each year over 1 million joeys are either killed by shooters or left to die of starvation, predation or exposure. Joeys are decapitated, shot or clubbed to death.
Nor does the quota include the kangaroos left in the field because they have not been shot cleanly (and therefore cannot be accepted for processing) or that escape injured and later die. The relevant codes of practice require that kangaroos be shot in the head, but this does not always happen.
Former kangaroo shooter David Nicholls has said: "The mouth of a kangaroo can be blown off and the kangaroo can escape to die of shock and starvation. Forearms can be blown off, as can ears, eyes and noses. Stomachs can be hit, expelling the contents with the kangaroo still alive. Backbones can be pulverized to an unrecognizable state, etc. Hind legs can be shattered with the kangaroo desperately trying to get away on the other or without the use of either. To deny that this goes on is just an exercise in attempting to fool the public."
It is estimated that each year between 120,000 and 1 million kangaroos are mis-shot in this way (unfortunately, due to lack of monitoring a better estimate is not available). It is no wonder Australian animal protection advocates have called kangaroo killing "the cruelest wildlife slaughter in the world."
The quota also does not include the kangaroos shot for recreation. Yes, Australians do shoot kangaroos for their "amusement," including after a few beers. These shooters are not professionals and they do not undergo competency testing, so the animals are even more likely to suffer a painful death.
The fact that kangaroo killing is regulated means little. Policing and enforcement are almost nonexistent because the killing occurs in numerous remote parts of Australia under the cover of night.
There are many similarities between the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji and the killing of Australian kangaroos. In both cases, the animals are killed for their meat or as "pest control," and in both cases they suffer terribly. In terms of scale, however, the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, while horrendous, pales in comparison to the bloodbath taking place in Australia.
As Australians we should not be seeking to defend the killing of kangaroos, or to downplay the extent to which it occurs. If we are horrified by the killing of dolphins in Japan, we should be equally (if not more) appalled by the killing of kangaroos in Australia. We should be pleading with our governments and fellow Australians "Stop the annual kangaroo massacre, make your children proud."