There are mixed opinions on a trial that commenced in 2014, which allows hunted kangaroos to be processed into pet food.
State Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has not ruled out the continuation of the trial and expected to ‘have more to say in due course’.
Victorian Farmers Federation livestock president Leonard Vallance said Victoria was the only state without an approved management plan for commercial harvested kangaroos and this was the ‘perfect opportunity’ to make the trial permanent.
“It is time for Minister D’Ambrosio to commit to the commercialisation and provide certainty to the people invested in the industry. We’re very concerned about the amount of damage and destruction the kangaroo population is currently presenting to Victorian farming land,” Mr Vallance said.
“This is the best way to reduce the economic and environmental damage caused by excess numbers of kangaroos, create jobs in the meat supply chain, and boost revenue that would be invested back into rural communities at the same time.”
The VFF claims kangaroos were detrimental for not just the agricultural industry but also harmful to native flora and fauna and caused issues to the habitats of other animals and reptiles.
According to the VFF, data from the Federal Department of Environment and Energy indicated there were 48 million kangaroos in Australia, up from 25 million in 2011.
Commercial harvesting is regulated by state legislation that licenses commercial shooters on the basis that they can only sell the carcasses of kangaroos that have been euthanased in accordance with the National Code of Practice.
Nikki Sutterby from the Australian Society for Kangaroos believes the kangaroo pet food trial had caused dire circumstances for the native Australian animal.
Ms Sutterby said the organisation was devastated when the trial was announced because mobs of healthy kangaroos would be shot for an industry focused on profit.
“Bendigo was another area added to the list, it just kept expanding. Eventually they will try to have an industry across the entirety of Victoria, which is a real problem because the evidence shows there’s not enough kangaroos to sustain the industry,” Ms Sutterby said.
The City of Greater Bendigo and Loddon were included when the trial was extended in September 2016.
“It is very cruel, a national government research report that was published in 2014 surveyed professional shooters out in the field and it found that the code of practice was not being followed,’’ Ms Sutterby said.
The report by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation titled Improving the humaneness of commercial kangaroo harvesting outlined that within other states where kangaroos were allowed to be commercially harvested, euthanasia methods for joeys were not being followed.
The report recounted observations of large furless, partially furred, and pouch young being removed from the pouch, placed on the ground and stomped, and hit on the skull with items such as rocks and iron bars.
“The evidence is there that this industry is cruel, it is totally unsupervised out in the field, the shooters are out shooting, maiming and orphaning kangaroos without proper oversight,” Ms Sutterby said.
“The out of pouch joeys that were still dependent on their mother were not being euthanased, they were just left to die and the mothers were killed and taken for their skins and meat.
“It is clear that because the kangaroos in Victoria now have a dollar sign on their head, more are being killed despite the government saying there will not be an increase.”
Before the trial commenced in 2014, there were 88 Authorities to Control Wildlife issued for eastern grey kangaroos in the City of Greater Bendigo with a maximum of 1972 head subject to control, compared to 2015 when 140 ATCWs were issued with 3740 subject to control.
There was an increase despite the trial not starting in the COGB until 2016.
According to the The Department of Energy, Land, Water and Planning up until December 2017, 87,622 kangaroos were processed under the trial.
“The purpose of the trial is to reduce the waste of carcasses from kangaroos that would have been controlled regardless of the trial,” a DELWP spokesperson said.
Part of DELWP’s policy is that land managers must “exhaust all practical non-lethal options” to manage kangaroos before applying for a “last resort” ATCW.
“Kangaroos controlled under the ATCW permit system within the trial areas can be processed for pet food, by processors approved and licensed by DELWP and Primesafe.”
For processing, the kangaroos must be from within a controlled trial area, euthanased correctly and can only be accepted from licensed shooters that are listed in the food safety of a licensed pet food facility.
Countrywide Pet Foods owner Michael Scales said only kangaroos that had been euthanased correctly, with a shot to the head of the animal were accepted, and if there were evidence of being “chest shot”, they would be rejected.
The kangaroo pet food trial is set to end in March 2018.
Bendigo was another area added to the list, it just kept expanding. Eventually they will try to have an industry across the entirety of Victoria, which is a real problem because the evidence shows there’s not enough kangaroos to sustain the industry.Nikki Sutterby, Australian Society for Kangaroos