Kangaroo pet food culling program to remain in Victoria, but red tape has farmers concerned – ABC Rural

Victoria finally has a permanent kangaroo pet food program, but serious doubts remain over whether it will be effective.

key points vic kangaroo trial

Key points:

  • Farmers and the opposition say a new kangaroo harvesting program will result in carcasses left in paddocks
  • Under the new program, only accredited shooters can sell carcasses to the pet food industry
  • The government says it will mean kangaroos are culled in a professional manner

This week the State Government announced the Kangaroo Harvesting Program had come into force, replacing the long-running Kangaroo Pet Food Trial.

But the Victorian Farmers Federation and State Opposition say the program involves too much red tape and will mean some carcasses will be left to rot in paddocks.

Carcasses to go to waste

Under the previous trial, kangaroos shot by farmers under a separate scheme, called the Authority to Control Wildlife, could be sold to pet food processors.

But under the permanent scheme, only kangaroos shot by professional shooters will be permissible.

Leonard Vallance, president of the Victorian Farmers Federation Livestock Group, said the new program made no sense.

“The original proposal was to have kangaroos utilised, not left rotting in paddocks and feeding invasive species,” he said.

Leader of the Nationals in Victoria, Peter Walsh, said the scheme would be ineffective.

“The new program is a Claytons program if people think this is going to have kangaroos used through the pet food supply chain,” he said.

“Any kangaroos that will be controlled with a wildlife control permit will not be able to be used in the future. They’ll be left in the paddock to feed foxes and wild dogs and those two predators will build up in the landscape.

Mr Walsh accused the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning of undermining the scheme.

“I don’t know what the government’s thinking is, but I understand the department has a philosophical view against those kangaroos being able to be used for commercial gain,” he said.

Mr Walsh said the restrictions that would be placed on shooters were too onerous.

“My view is that red tape will be that strict, so bureaucratic, that effectively there will be no kangaroo carcasses used in the pet food supply chain. It will just be strangled in red tape,” he said.

Government refutes criticism

Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes rejected Mr Walsh’s criticism of the program.

“Mr Walsh just has to find something negative to say about everything. I’d like to see more joy in his life,” she said.

Ms Symes said farmers would be able to arrange professional shooters to control their kangaroos, rather than shooting them under the Authority to Control Wildlife.

“Farmers, they have access to the harvesting program, so they can identify a local harvester who will come and shoot those kangaroos for you,” she said.

“This is beneficial to not just farmers because during drought kangaroo populations suffer as well.

Farmers say quota too low

A statewide quota of 14,090 kangaroos has been set for the next three months.

Mr Vallance said that would have very little impact on kangaroo numbers.

“It doesn’t seem like a lot of kangaroos, considering the numbers that are out there,” he said.

Mr Vallance also questioned the survey methods used to determine the quota.

“My understanding of the aerial surveys was that it was done over areas that weren’t heavily timbered and anyone who lives in Victoria knows the highest populations of kangaroos are around heavily timbered areas, so you’ve got to question the validity of the survey,” he said.

Mr Vallance said if shooters could not shoot enough kangaroos to turn a profit, they would look elsewhere.

“It will be market-driven, and if there’s not enough return in it for the shooters they’ll simply shift interstate … where life’s a little easier and simpler,” he said.

Processor welcomes the scheme, but has concerns

Director of Countrywide Petfoods at Stanhope Michael Scales said it was good news that the trial had been made permanent, and he welcomed the accreditation process shooters would now go through.

“I think it is a much better process, more manageable, so we’re very encouraged that the government has gone in the right direction,” he said.

But he said it seemed “silly” that kangaroos shot under the Authority to Control Wildlife had been excluded and agreed with Mr Vallance that the quota was too low.

“I think the quota is slightly low and conservative and I don’t think some of the survey work they did is quite accurate, when you compare the numbers to other states,” he said.

Wildlife group slams program and calls for halt

The Australian Society for Kangaroos president, Nikki Sutterby, called for a stop to the Victorian Government’s program as she believed animal welfare standards would be easily compromised.

“There is absolutely no supervision in the field at the point of kill with the kangaroo meat and skins industry,” she said.

“I’m quite annoyed that the Minister has come out and said the welfare standards will be strictly adhered to, because she knows damn well that she doesn’t have any idea what’s going to happen to those baby joeys out there when they kill the females.

“It’s really disturbing and the public really needs to stand up and oppose this.”

Ms Sutterby said the move to make the program permanent was financially driven.

“This is about profit and we need to be careful of who’s out there banging the drum. This is the industry wanting to kill our kangaroos and turn them into pet food,” she said.

“We’re calling for an independent inquiry into this.”

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