Specialists indicated that killing kangaroos and sending them to consume their meat or to benefit from their skin is a way to spare them severe suffering and to control their numbers.
Millions of Australian kangaroos may die of starvation unless the current huge increase in their numbers is controlled, as wildlife experts and conservation organizations have warned, and some have even suggested culling some of these animals to save the rest.
Kangaroos, the symbol of Australia, are a major environmental problem for the giant country because of their breeding cycle, which can number in the tens of millions when forage is plentiful after a heavy rainy season. But their numbers may decline sharply in the event of a lack of food.
“During the last dry season, we estimate that 80 to 90 percent of the kangaroos died in certain areas,” ecologist Katherine Mosby told AFP.
She pointed out that these animals “go into public toilets and eat toilet paper. Or lie on the streets hungry while their young try to find something to eat.”
According to Mosby, killing kangaroos and sending them to consume their meat or to benefit from their skin is a way to spare them severe suffering and to control their numbers.
This “keeps the animal population in check, avoiding any welfare issues in droughts,” Mosby says.
The Australian government provides protection for kangaroos, but the most common species is not at risk of extinction. This means that hunting them is permissible, provided permission is obtained, in most lands.
Each year, up to five million kangaroos are slaughtered for their meat or skin. According to Denise King of the Australian Kangaroo Products Sector Association, the country is on the cusp of a population boom.
“After three years of ‘La Niña’ on the east coast, this is the ideal scenario for the growth of kangaroos over the next two years,” King explains, referring to the atmospheric phenomenon that caused heavy rains in Australia. King notes that the “reproductive cycle is accelerating” in kangaroos.
He estimates that the number of kangaroos in Australia fell to less than 30 million after a terrible drought in the early 2000s, but has since rebounded and could pass 60 million soon.
Animal welfare organizations denounce the commercial slaughter of these animals, describing it as “cruel massacre”. It has pressured major global sportswear brands, such as Nike and Puma, to stop using kangaroo skin in their products.
A spokeswoman for “Nike” said last March that the company “separated from its sole supplier of kangaroo leather in 2021, and will stop manufacturing any products with kangaroo leather in 2023.”
In the northwestern US state of Oregon, where Nike is founded, local officials introduced a bill in early 2023 to ban the use of “any part of a dead kangaroo”.
Animals Australia condemned the “slaughter of these endemic animals (in Australia) for commercial profit.”
But campaigns to end the industry, while well-intentioned, are misleading, says George Wilson, a leading expert on kangaroo population management.
“They say it’s not ethical. But it’s not ethical to let her starve,” Wilson told AFP. “The brutal thing is not to stand by,” he adds.
An opinion shared by Mosby, who says, “Stopping the killing of kangaroos for their skin or meat will not do any good,” but “it will only make things worse.”