Australia is facing a plague of kangaroos in the wake of already severe droughts, flooding and bush fires, and it plans to fight overpopulation humanely with shotguns, lead pipes, and vehicle tow bars.
Image by Michael Barritt & Karen May
The Department of Environment in Australia released a draft of a national code on humane methods for euthanizing young kangaroos, known as joeys. The draft recommends close-range shotgun blasts, whacks in the head with a metal pipe, and “forcefully swinging” young kangaroo heads against vehicle tow bars. The methods are meant to be used if a young animal is orphaned due to a vehicle accident or hunting.
While the methods may seem a bit cruel, they’re certainly more humane than the alternative. Orphaned joeys usually starve. While many people would want to save the cute baby animals, possibly by sending them to a wildlife center, the Department of Environment discourages that idea due to the fact that there are already far too many of the animals. In particularly drought hit areas kangaroos are at plague levels and they’re a pest in many other areas of the country. The army has recently had to institute a euthanasia program for the kangaroos on its bases in Canberra to prevent mass starvation of the animals.
A Department of Environment spokesperson said: “I think we all love kangaroos. The problem is that there are too many. What we are talking about here is responsible environmental management, because if we don’t do something you won’t have pastures and viable farming. We are trying to come up with something that is practicable to use across sometimes remote parts of the country.”
However, at least one former lawmaker believes these practices could backfire in the wake of the Australian government’s actions against Japan’s whaling expedition. Conservationist and former politician Richard Jones said: “We can hardly take the high moral ground on animal welfare and whale conservation when the government is prepared to condone barbaric practices regarding our native wildlife.”
Despite Jones’ reservations most Australian animal groups are generally in favor of the government’s humane killing plan, although the RSPCA and the Wildlife Protection Association, founded by the late Steve Irwin, asked the government to drop shotgun use from the drafted proposal. The Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia defended the current recommended methods of joey euthanasia, including using metal pipes and striking the animals against tow bars. Their executive officer John Kelly said: “Animal welfare is precisely what this code of practice is all about.”