Crikey Clarifier

Mar 7, 2018

The Oz v the Greens: who’s right, and who’s a great big hopping idiot in the great kangaroo cull debate?

A culture-war-free explainer on culling kangaroos, and Lee Rhiannon.

Charlie Lewis — Journalist

Charlie Lewis


A new documentary, Kangaroos: a love-hate story, has stoked a fiery new culture war, attracting controversy for its depiction of the killing of kangaroos in the culling and harvesting industry. The film had already made a splash in the US, with several outlets covering the film, but the storm has finally reached Australian media.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has trooped off to Belgium to speak at a screening, and in a move you could set your watch to, The Australian has run a piece chronicling the kangaroo meat industry’s furious response, along with a damning editorial criticising Rhiannon (and the Greens, by extension) for her support.

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12 thoughts on “The Oz v the Greens: who’s right, and who’s a great big hopping idiot in the great kangaroo cull debate?

  1. sheamcduff

    What sort of kangaroos?
    They are not all the same – there are about 40 medium to large species and their numbers vary considerably as does their conservation status. I’ve got 3 species just on my property. They can’t properly be all lumped into one basket labelled ‘kangaroos’.
    In fact for [at least] 3 species there are none left at all – gone extinct sadly.
    One [at least], the Toolache Wallaby, as recently [probably] as the 1970s.
    And the population ‘estimates’ are a joke – from this article alone a huge variation of from 25 million to 45 million is cited.
    To put that into context there are more than 70 million sheep in OZ currently.
    Not counting other herbivores [obviously] eg cattle, goats, brumbys, camels, buffalo, pigs, rabbits, deer …..
    Rhiannon versus “The Australian”?
    “The Australian” writes crap.

    1. EG

      Agree with all in your post S.
      Not sure about our yankee cousin’s credibility in the debate.

  2. Dog's Breakfast

    I’m afraid that in an argument between Rhiannon and anyone, I’m inclined to trust anyone.

    In an argument between Rhiannon and the Australian, well, it’s an argument I’m not going to adjudicate on.

    But this debate has been happening since I was a kid, perilous calls that kangaroos will be extinct by next week, vicious hunters wiping out a species etc, and yet still, there they are in just about any bush setting you find yourself in.

    There may be particular species of Kangaroo that are being wiped out, but that is unlikely to be attributable to shooters.

    Emotive click-bait marketing for Rhiannon.

  3. AR

    As inexplicably strange as it seems to the guessperts, roos are oddly suited, adapted even, to a continent with poor, depleted ancient soils of exceptional fragility, erratic and widely variable rainfall with a vegetation which is mostly inedible to hard hoofed mammals from the northern landmasses.
    Like eucalyptus, the governing factor in fertility is water which, to stop Ovis/Bovis expiring toot sweet, is made available across vast areas.
    I would be glad to see the eradication of Ovis & Bovis and a roo meat industry for those recalcitrant throwbacks who insist on being carnivores.
    BTW, in Germany roo meat is more expensive and eagerly consumed that venison.

    1. sheamcduff

      Yep, I’ve long been an advocate of a scientifically managed roo farming industry.
      Wouldn’t be hard to set up and would be very profitable. Have you ever felt roo leather?
      But I’m afraid we don’t have the ‘agile and innovative’ mindset to put it into practice.
      The carrying capacity of my property is less than 1 sheep, even less for cattle, maybe 1 goat could survive here although I doubt it, and all the other introduced/ferals would be equally disadvantaged.
      But the dozens of resident roos, of 3 species, are quite comfortable here.
      Strangely enough they were ‘designed’ [oops, by nature I meant] to cope with the various Oz habitats far better and far more productively [in a narrow economic sense] than the traditional imports.
      But our national thinking is drowned out by the noise from the ‘cut it down/shoot it mob’ if its not from England.
      Poor fella my country.

  4. Bob McDonald

    Australian managers, policy advisers and most scientists have advocated culling kangaroos and other Indigenous species, especially in the last 3 decades. We also have a history of culling kangaroos because we blamed them for the lack of agricultural success. A bounty in Queensland for a ‘kangaroo species’ mixture of species in 1877 was long before fertilisers. Stock couldn’t eat native grasses until they reshoot after burning, while kangaroos could eat them at any age. Gordon Grigg, who undertook many Ariel counts of kangaroos, recalculated the original ‘desktop’ estimate of grass consumption by kangaroos, bringing down – to o.2 of what a sheep would eat (dry sheep equivalent) – or as much as two rabbits. Farmers have too often assumed kangaroo impact when it has been ferals! Having their own dung bettles ( and do not pollute water with harmful bacteria like introduced stock), being selective grazers and avoiding sharing even small patches of pasture with sheep (Prof Ian McDonald 1988 pers.comm.) The competition between kangaroo like species and stock has been vastly overstated – understandably in the past. Their value for flammable fuel reduction has been ignored. They and all species of wallably balance green pic with dry pasture grass, the ignition point for most of the worst bush fires and a source of grass fires that can be far more rapid traveling and more lethal – killing many people as part of the Hobart ‘Bushfires’ and the Ash Wednesday fires in addition to many other fatal grass fires. Pasture grasses that kangaroos and wallabies target beyond the paddocks are highly flammable drying off in the summer/dry season unlike native grasses that remain green. With new wildlife cameras there is no excuse for failing to count kangaroos – and the rabbits, deer, goats and range of other feral grazers before issuing permits to shoot native grazers. Hobby farmers and weekenders should never under any circumstances be allowed to kill kangaroos. Finally it is sad to see yet another academic indicate the Indigenous Australians controlled the populations of many species of kangaroos and wallabies. You cannot generalise about a continent twice the size of Europe. Every one of 3-500 Indigenous nations has a different relationship with kangaroos and their kin. Basic research for each region will likely reveal that they were hunted pre colonial ‘possession’, but not until there were few left controlling their population. The remains in Indigenous eating places tell of occasional kills. There are also many early contact and indigenous Australian stories tell of great efforts breaking down each animal for its skin, tendons, flesh etc. The notion that Indigenous Australians controlled populations of Indigenous animals is wrong ecologically ( See Paul Colinvaux and Odum) as is based on the colonial habit of telling Indigenous people what they used to do – or picking those with an opinion you chose to believe. Indigenous kangaroo and wallaby hunting is far more common now because they represent the last Indigenous mammals left in too many places. Where most of the ‘government sanctioned’ kangaroo culling happens, such as the range lands of Western NSW, productivity of much of the land is poor. Investing in Indigenous peoples and other land managers to manage the least productive portions of their land for the Indigenous suite of species, controlling feral animals, weeds and wildfire. The return on that investment through more, better quality water (and fish) and carbon sequestered (stored) – keeping farmers and Indigenous Australians on their land.

    1. AR

      Excellent contribution Bob – esp the whinge I heard just a day or two ago from a “farmer” who swore blind that roos degrade & detroy land needed for his destructive alien stock.
      As with cats & foxes, the amount of this nation that is wasted on introduced domestic animals, without the ferals from fluffy bunnies to camels, goats & horses etc.
      It’d make a marble statue weep.

  5. gjb

    I haven’t seen the film nor will I make an effort too. No doubt they have some footage of neurally challenged creatures in utes acting like the arseholes they really are. The fact is the game meat industry in Australia is closely monitored and culling numbers are scientifically determined. Shooters/ processors would not risk their livelihood for needless cruelty.
    I’m sure the producers of the film were unable to find anybody of sound mind who actually “hates” macropods in all their wonderful varieties. Lee Rhiannon on the other-hand, they would not even have to search further than her own ramshackle inner city political party

  6. wilful

    Charlie Lewis, why on earth would you have spoken to David Lindenmayer?? Not to have a go at him, but he is in no sense an expert in this field. Was it, “just grab a scientist, no one will know! ” ? Fail.

  7. Sarah

    The award winning film KANGAROO explores Australia’s love-hate relationship with its
    beloved icon. The kangaroo ‘image’ is proudly used by top companies, sports teams and tourist souvenirs, yet as they hop across the vast continent many consider them pests to be shot and sold for profit. KANGAROO unpacks a national paradigm where the relationship with kangaroos is examined. The film explores the complex and conflicting opinions around this unique marsupial. With interviews from scientists, politicians, indigenous Australians, industry , environmentalists, wildlife carers, farmers, property owners, tourists and more. This film brings to the table a transparent conversation about the treatment of kangaroos and gives the audience the opportunity to make up their own minds. KANGAROO opens in cinema March 15th.

    1. AR

      Crikey used as cheaper than an ad.

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