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Better Red Than Dead

Better Red Than Dead

The way that Australians treat kangaroos is disgraceful. They have been shot for sport, meat and skins over the years, and more recently, shot to prevent them eating grass in competition with our domestic livestock (grazing on the large artificial pastures created by tearing down forests).

More recently still, the Victorian government saw fit to have a Kangaroo Pet Food trial. Their own report into this trial blasted it as a failure, not just killing animals unnecessarily, but also costing more in subsidies and administration than it generated in revenues. It aimed to take kangaroo carcasses away from the land (to be “productively used”) but actually resulted in more shooting, more suffering and more carcasses strewn around the landscape, with attendant biosecurity risks.

Despite this honest internal reporting, the government for some reason decided to make the trial permanent. Naturally, we objected to this, and made the strongest possible representations to the government…duly ignored.

I try not to make the perfect the enemy of the good, and I have to live with the knowledge that animal suffering is extensive, and every day contains some failures. Failure to make change, or failure to make that change big enough. Still, one has to carry on, and see what can actually be achieved.

I made the case in the parliament for the protection of at least one species, the Red Kangaroo (Macropus Rufus). I noted the science. In 2017, a statewide survey of Red Kangaroos counted (actually saw), 23 individuals. From this, somehow, they extrapolated that there were 13,000 within Victoria, and promptly issued permits for the shooting of 16,000 of them.

This seems to suggest that the government is in favour of shooting to local extinction, but they seemed unmoved by the ecological arguments.

If science fails, I guess I had to fall back on rhetoric and poetry! I noted that Qantas uses the red kangaroo as the symbol of Australia. That the colour of this largest of all marsupials mirrors the reddy-ochre dirt that our indigenous people woke up to each day around Uluru, and it was this colour that the Animal Justice Party had adopted back in 2009 as our preferred party colour.

Sometimes it is our political leverage that wins change. Sometimes it is just having the opportunity to work in the old stone building on Spring Street, to be able to speak in the chamber and in the corridors. Maybe sometimes it is our passion and our poetry that can win the day.

In October 2019, the Environment Minister confirmed the removal of Macropus Rufus from the list of animals that can legally be shot for pet food.

Long may they majestically bound across Victoria’s plains.