Kangaroo Shooting Code compliance

A Survey of the Extent of Compliance with the Requirements of the Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos
Prepared for Environment Australia by RSPCA Australia
July 2002

4 Field inspections of commercially harvested kangaroos

4.1 Introduction

In the 1985 Report a survey was carried out to determine the humaneness of the commercial kangaroo harvest. The survey examined the prevalence of head shots in the carcasses and skins of commercially killed kangaroos across the four mainland States where commercial killing is permitted. The 1985 Report concluded that, at that time (which pre-dated the introduction of the Code of Practice), 86% of kangaroos killed for commercial purposes were head-shot and the remaining 14% were body-shot.

This section presents the methodology and results of a similar survey to obtain a more recent assessment of the percentage of head-shot and body-shot kangaroos and, in particular, to determine the impact of the Code of Practice on the overall humaneness of the commercial kangaroo harvest.

4.2 Methodology

4.2.1 Survey design

The survey population was the commercial kangaroo harvest in mainland Australia, with kangaroo skins and carcasses as the primary sampling unit. Commercially killed kangaroos are taken by the shooter to a chiller and are then transported to a processor. The processor was chosen as the sampling point of the skins and carcasses inspected for this survey (see Section 4.2.4 for further details).

The survey was carried out in two parts. Initial visits to processors were carried out over the period July to September 2000, with a further two visits (to one processor and one tannery) carried out in May 2002. The total sample size and distribution across States was determined by the Schedule of Consultancy Services (Appendix 2) which specified inspection of a minimum of 3,000 skins or carcasses (1,000 in NSW, 1,200 in Queensland, 500 in South Australia and 300 in Western Australia). It was also specified that within Queensland half of the inspections should be from the skin-only kill, and in NSW one-third of inspections should be of kangaroos killed for human consumption and two-thirds of kangaroos killed for pet food.

4.2.1.1 Processors and tanneries inspected

Twenty-four processors and two tanneries were visited across the four States included in the survey. The processors ranged in size from relatively small operations employing two to three persons, to larger processors with a staff of 50. The mean operating size of the processors (in terms of throughput of kangaroos) for each State is shown in Table 4.1. The sampling regime reflects the relative harvest of kangaroos within each State.

Table 4.1  Processors inspected

Processor

NSW

South Australia

Queensland

Western Australia

 

Number inspected

7

4

9

4

Mean number kangaroos processed per day (range)

423
(150-1150)

290
(200-650)

800
(125-1000)

262
(100-450)

 

4.2.1.2 Number of skins and carcasses inspected

Kangaroos are shot for three distinct commercial purposes, depending on the market and the licence conditions of the shooter: these are for human consumption, for pet food or for their skin-only. During this survey 2,394 carcasses and 2,689 skins were inspected in total. These included 1,744 carcasses and 892 skins from kangaroos shot for human consumption; 1,224 carcasses and 1,285 skins from kangaroos shot for pet food; and 590 skins from kangaroos shot by skin-only shooters.

A total of six processors specialising in kangaroos used for human consumption were inspected in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia during the initial survey period. Some processors take kangaroos from States other than the one they are located in. However, at the time of the survey the majority of kangaroos received at each of these processors had been shot in the State where the processor was located. It is likely that a small proportion of these kangaroos would have originated from other States. At the time of the initial survey there was only one human consumption processor operating in NSW (in Chullora) and this was not visited. In 2001 the Chullora processor closed. In order to obtain a sample of kangaroos shot in NSW for human consumption, a batch of 574 carcasses and 156 skins from NSW was inspected at a processor in Brisbane in May 2002.

Most of the skins inspected were from carcasses brought into the processor (ie the by-product of shooting for human consumption or pet food). The dominant product at the time of the survey was the kangaroo carcass. New South Wales and South Australia do not allow skin-only shooting. Skin-only shooting mainly occurs in Western Australia and Queensland in remote areas where it is uneconomic to transport the carcass to the processor. The percentage of kangaroos shot for skin-only may increase if the price for meat falls, making it uneconomic to transport carcasses in more areas. In some instances, skins brought in by a skin-only shooter were mixed with the skins derived from carcasses. Consequently, an inspection of a pile of skins waiting to be salted or frozen would result in a sample of products from skin-only shooters as well as carcass shooters.

In May 2002, 590 skins from skin-only shooters (from the Quilpie region of western Queensland) were inspected at a Brisbane tannery. At the time of the initial survey there was only one skin-only shooter in Western Australia and it was not possible to inspect skins from this shooter. Kangaroos shot by skin-only shooters in Western Australia form a very small proportion of the total harvest in that State.

 

Location of processors inspected

Figure 4.1  Location of processors inspected (numbers in brackets indicate that more than one processor was visited at this location). Inspections were also carried out at tanneries in Adelaide and Brisbane.

 

4.2.1.3 Geographical spread of processors within each State

It was difficult to ensure a good geographic spread of samples within each State, as the numbers required for inspection for some States were small (South Australia, Western Australia), and many of the processors were not working during the initial survey period (due to recent rain). However, inspections were spread over as wide an area as possible in each State, and a variety of processors were visited. Most of the inspections were within those areas of each State where the greatest harvests of kangaroos occur. The locations of the processors are shown on the accompanying map (Figure 4.1).

Using processors rather than chillers as the sampling point made it possible to inspect samples from a number of locations at a single inspection point.  The extent of geographic spread can be illustrated by listing the towns from where individual shooters/chillers supplied products. For example, a single batch of kangaroos shot in NSW entering a processor were recorded as coming from Brewarrina, Bourke, Nyngan, Bellata, Moree, Carinda, Warren, Walget and Goondawindi.

4.2.1.4 Limitations of the survey design

As pointed out above, all inspections of kangaroos were undertaken at the level of processor or tanner. This was chosen for a number of reasons:

  1. to enable the inspection of a large number of skins or carcasses at a single location;
  2. to reduce the likelihood of any pre-warning that an inspection of skins or carcasses was about to take place affecting the sample; and
  3. to ensure a certain degree of anonymity for the shooters involved.

It should be noted that sampling at the processor does not take into account the number of kangaroos shot in the field that were not taken to the chiller or processor. Direct sampling of kangaroos in the field through observations of individual shooters was not attempted during this survey. Accurate surveying of shooters is extremely difficult because of observer influence affecting the results. Methods used to overcome such bias include the use of hidden observers, but in most circumstances where kangaroos are shot this is not feasible. A rough estimate of the proportion of kangaroos that were head-shot by commercial shooters fully intending to shoot in the head has been made by NSW Agriculture. They found that 1-2 injured kangaroos will not be retrieved by the shooter during each shoot, ie about 1% of kangaroos shot are injured but not killed by the shooter (NSW Agriculture, unpublished data). However, this figure does not take account of observer influence. Furthermore the NSW observations were of the ability of shooters to head-shoot under a range of conditions rather than their compliance with the requirements of the Code which is the subject of the present survey.

4.2.2 Inspection procedures

Approaches to processor owners and/or operators to arrange an inspection needed to be dealt with in a sensitive manner. Several processor operators had previously been subjected to adverse publicity and felt that they have been unfairly treated. Consequently, it was sometimes necessary to wait for individuals to make their own inquiries about the veracity of the survey. Publicity by the Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia assisted in ensuring permission was granted to enter many of the processors. However, there are some processor owners that do not belong to this Association and it was necessary to carefully explain the aims of the survey. Only one processor operator refused permission to inspect but most were happy to allow open entry to their works. To assist in establishing some degree of trust with the operator, it was made clear that no photographs would be taken and no individual would be targeted.

A balance needed to be made between the need to minimise pre-warning of visits and the need to make sure the processor operator granted access for inspections to take place. It was usual that a processor was contacted either the day before a planned inspection, or on the actual day of inspection. This inhibited any warning to kangaroo harvesters to only supply carefully shot kangaroos. In addition, most processors usually held a collection of carcasses or skins that had been collected several days before the inspection. These were stored in a cold room waiting to be processed. These were always inspected, together with any that may have arrived during the inspection period. Most processors commenced working at about 6.00-7.00 am and finished by early afternoon. If there were two or even three processors close by, then several inspections could be undertaken in a single day. It was possible to inspect a processor at 7.00 am in one town (eg Hay), then drive to another town (eg Balranald), and inspect another processor on the same day.

Each processor tended to use its own method of handling kangaroos and their products, so it was necessary to adapt to the conditions upon arrival. The aim at each processor was to inspect both carcasses (with their skins on) and skins, and this was achieved throughout the survey. At some processors, carcasses with their skins removed were also available. Of the 1,744 carcasses from kangaroos shot for human consumption, 411 were inspected with their heads on which enabled the head to be examined for bullet holes. Carcasses for pet meat were only available with their heads off.

If the inspection was carried out later in the day it was possible to miss many of the carcasses being processed. The skins were then the dominant product inspected. With other processors the skins would already have been removed, packed in bags and frozen, or they would be taken away to the tannery when the inspection was taking place. This meant that the carcasses were the dominant product inspected.

4.2.2.1 Location of bullet holes

Each carcass and skin was closely inspected and felt over for bullet holes in areas other than the head. A record was made of the location of any bullet holes in each carcass or skin and each sample was classified as being either head-shot or body-shot according to the location of the bullet holes found.

(a) Carcasses

Most carcasses inspected had the heads removed and had been cut through the chest as part of the normal cutting-down procedure. However, the chest was left intact in some of the kangaroos destined for human consumption. This gave an opportunity to determine whether any of these kangaroos had been shot in the centre of the chest (none were).

Carcasses with the head attached provided an important resource to determine exactly where the animal was shot. The heads could be inspected for bullet holes: if there was no sign of a head shot the remainder of the carcass was inspected. Where there was evidence of the kangaroo being shot in the neck, the heads of those carcasses could be inspected to determine if the bullet had also entered the head.

It was difficult to find bullet wounds in the actual carcass when the skin was on, as the small entrance hole could be easily missed and skin tended to retract to close the hole. It was easier to find bullet holes in the body or neck if the carcass was skinned, as bruising was always evident. However, sometimes bruising within the body, particularly in the upper parts, indicated that a bullet had passed through the head and neck and entered the chest or shoulder. This could be determined by closer inspection of the bruised area to determine if there were any holes on the outside of the carcass.

(b) Skins

The most reliable method of determining whether an animal had been shot in the neck or body came from inspection of the skins, once removed from the carcass. Each skin was spread out and the inside inspected. There were several patterns of marks on the underside of the skins that could be classified in the following way:

  • Large and small bruising without any sign of a hole: this type of pattern appeared to be connected with either the bruising of the animal as it fell, after being shot, or from the jarring effect of the bullet striking the animal. There is a tendency in some kangaroos to stiffen on being shot, with the result that muscles can contract and rip. Sometimes this can result in the loss of meat during the processing of the carcass.
  • A scatter of small bruising and holes in the neck and shoulders: this was caused by shrapnel from a bullet disintegrating after hitting a bone in the head or neck.
  • Holes in the skin with clean edges and no bruising: these were caused by knife cuts during the cutting-down process, either by the shooter or within the process works. Other holes could be caused by the piercing of the skin by broken bones from an adjoining hung kangaroo.
  • Holes in the skin surrounded by bruising and usually with a slightly ragged edge to the wound: these were holes that were formed by bullets either entering or exiting the kangaroo. The distinctive pattern of surrounding bruised skin and the 'rough' edges to the hole made it easy to recognise the pattern as made by a bullet. Large holes indicated that a bullet had exited from the body at that point; a small hole (usually less than one centimetre) indicated that a bullet had entered at that point.

Of all the patterns of marks on the underside of skins, it is the small hole surrounded by bruising described in the last point above that is most important. It is this pattern that indicates that a kangaroo has been shot in an area other than the head.

4.2.2.3 Inspection of skins at tanneries

As described in Section 4.2.1 above, inspections of skins were made at two tanneries, one in Adelaide and the other in Brisbane. It was thought that inspecting skins at tanneries might be a possible alternative and fast means of assessing the percentage of body shots compared with inspections at processors. The advantage is that high numbers of skins pass though a tannery each day.

Although the majority of skins inspected at these two tanneries were unfleshed, ie had not entered the process for tanning, a small number of fleshed skins (27) were inspected at the Adelaide tannery. These inspections indicated that it was possible to recognise both the shrapnel pattern and the pattern of marks made by a bullet on skins that have undergone the fleshing process in the tannery. After fleshing and fur removal, the white skins were laid out for grading. Any bruising marks showed up as grey colouration on the skin. This colouration, combined with the degree of roughness, as well as appropriate size and shape of a hole, gave an indication that the animal had been shot in the body.

In Western Australia, a 'Kangaroo Grading Sheet' was obtained from a processor. This sheet was sent from the tannery and described the number and condition of the skins sent for tanning. Part of the grading includes whether a skin had been shot, cut or ripped. Two (1.7%) of the 115 skins graded by the tannery were reported as 'shot', ie containing a bullet wound. Such information could be useful when undertaking an assessment of body shots at a given processor or tannery. A similar approach was taken by the tanner at Brisbane. This tanner produces a 'raw (green) skin assessment' report for each shooter. Part of this report is to comment on any holes found in the skins received.

4.2.3 Statistical analysis

Statistical analysis was carried out to determine whether there were significant differences in the proportion of head-shot kangaroos between the States, between industry sectors (human consumption, pet food and skin-only skins) and between carcass and skin inspections. The full data set was analysed by logistic regression. The proportion of kangaroos shot in the head was the response variable, and State, industry sector (pet versus human consumption, carcass versus skin-only), inspection sample (carcass versus skin) and time (1985 versus 2000-2002) were the explanatory variables. Estimates of the proportion of head-shot kangaroos were calculated from the logistic regression model for each industry sector within each State. To calculate the national head-shot rate, the estimated proportions from skin inspections in each state were then combined - see Section 4.3.1.1 for an explanation of this approach.

4.3 Results

A total of 2689 skins and 2394 carcasses were inspected for the present survey. Table 4.2 shows the results of the inspection of carcasses and skins for each processor surveyed.

For 5 of the 26 inspection sites, no body-shot kangaroos were found with either the skin or carcass inspections. In a further 4 sites, the percentage of skins and carcasses that had been body-shot was less than 1%. In the remaining 17 sites there was a wide variation in the proportion of body-shot kangaroos, ranging from 1.36% to 11.76%. A summary of the results for each industry sector is given in Table 4.3.

Table 4.2  Observed prevalence of body shots in the skins and carcasses of kangaroos inspected in each of the four States by processor

(a)  New South Wales

 

Carcasses

    Skins


Product


Total

Body shots

% Body shots

% Head shots


    Total

Body shots

% Body shots

% Head shots

Humana

574

3

0.52%

99.48%

156

4

2.56%

97.44%

Pet

73

0

0

100%

52

0

0

100%

Pet

143

1

0.70%

99.30%

65

1

1.54%

98.46%

Pet

84

0

0

100%

33

0

0

100%

Pet

138

1

0.72%

99.28%

130

0

0

100%

Pet

147

2

1.36%

98.64%

56

4

7.14%

92.86%

Pet

102

2

1.96%

98.04%

119

1

0.84%

99.16%

Pet

32

0

0

100%

68

8

11.76%

88.24%

Total

1293

9

0.70%

99.30%

679

18

2.65%

97.35%

a These kangaroos originated in New South Wales but were inspected at a Queensland processor in May 2002.

(b)  Queensland

 

Carcasses

    Skins


Product


Total

Body shots

% Body shots

% Head shots


    Total

Body shots

% Body shots

% Head shots

Humana

200

13

6.50%

93.50%

0

-

-

-

Humana

100

5

5.00%

95.00%

219

23

10.50%

89.50%

Pet

100

0

0

100%

100

0

0

100%

Pet

23

0

0

100%

102

4

3.92%

96.08%

Pet

35

1

2.86%

97.14%

70

6

8.57%

91.43%

Pet

71

0

0

100%

136

7

5.15%

94.85%

Pet

33

0

0

100%

145

7

4.82%

95.18%

Pet

80

5

6.25%

93.75%

72

8

11.11%

88.89%

Skin-onlyb

0

-

-

-

590

18

3.05%

96.95%

Total

642

24

3.74%

96.26%

1434

73

5.09%

94.91%

a Heads left on at the processor.
b  Skins of kangaroos shot by skin-only shooters inspected at a tannery in May 2002.

(c)  South Australia

 

Carcasses

    Skins


Product


Total

Body shots

% Body shots

% Head shots


    Total

Body shots

% Body shots

% Head shots

Human

135

1

0.74%

99.26%

25

4

16.00%

84.00%

Human

50

0

0

100%

157

1

0.64%

99.36%

Human

0

-

-

-

128

6

4.69%

95.31%

Pet

51

0

0

100%

5

0

0

100%

Skinsa

0

-

-

-

78

2

2.56%

97.44%

Total

236

1

0.42%

99.58%

393

13

3.31%

96.69%

a1 These skins were inspected at a tannery and consequently the original purpose of shooting (ie human consumption or pet food) was not recorded.

(d)  Western Australia

 

Carcasses

    Skins


Product


Total

Body shots

% Body shots

% Head shots


    Total

Body shots

% Body shots

% Head shots

Humana

111

10

9.00%

91.00%

51

4

7.84%

92.16%

Pet

28

0

0

100%

102

5

4.90%

95.10%

Pet

47

0

0

100%

2

0

0

100%

Pet

37

2

5.41%

94.86%

28

0

0

100%

Total

223

12

5.38%

94.62%

183

9

4.91%

95.09%

a Heads left on at processor

Table 4.3  Observed prevalence of body shots by industry sector

 

Carcasses

    Skins


Product


Total

Body shots

% Body shots

% Head shots


    Total

Body shots

% Body shots

% Head shots

Human

1170

32

2.74%

97.26%

736

 42

5.71%

94.29%

Pet

1224

14

1.14%

98.86%

1285

51

3.97%

96.03%

Skin-only

0

-

-

-

590

18

3.05%

96.95%

Totala

2394

46

1.92%

98.08%

2611

111

4.25%

95.75%

a Excludes the 78 skins inspected at a tannery in SA where the original purpose of shooting was not known.

4.3.1 Factors affecting the prevalence of head shots

Of the 5083 skins and carcasses inspected, 159 were found to have been body-shot. Analyses were carried out of the prevalence of these body shots between the different States surveyed, the industry sectors included in the survey, and the type of inspection sample (ie skins or carcasses). The tables presented in this Section (4.3.1) present the estimated percentages calculated from the logistic regression model and represent the most conservative model of the data. These differ from the observed percentages presented in Tables 4.2-4.3. The regression model gives a clearer representation of the head-shot rate for the entire population than the raw data, as it includes the different variables found to affect these data.

4.3.1.1 Differences between skin and carcass inspections

Processor was included as a factor in this analysis as the two types of inspection were carried out in the same processor. This analysis thus allowed an inspection effect to be distinguished from a processor effect. There was no interaction between processor and inspection, but there were highly significant (p<0.01) processor (c2=114.2, 21 df) and inspection (c2=20.5, 1 df) effects. On average, the proportion of head-shot kangaroos recorded was 3.0% higher for carcass inspections than for skin inspections. However, as the proportion of body-shot kangaroos was small, the difference in the relative likelihood of detecting body shots between inspection methods was substantial. The analysis shows that body shots were 2.7 times more likely to be detected from a skin inspection than from a carcass inspection (95% CI: 1.7-4.3).  Subsequent analyses were therefore conducted separately for skin and carcass inspections. Because of this difference in the detection rate, the proportion of head-shot kangaroos in the national harvest presented in this Report was derived solely from skin inspections.

4.3.1.2 Differences between States and industry sectors

No significant interactions were found for skin inspections or carcass inspections. Significant State and industry sector effects were found for both skin (State:c2=19.1, 3 df, p<0.01; sector: c2=6.5, 1 df, p<0.05) and carcass (State: c2=37.2, 3 df, p<0.01; sector: c2=9.3, 1 df, p<0.01) inspections. These results indicate that both the State a kangaroo was shot in, and the industry sector that the kangaroo was shot for, had a significant effect on the proportion of head-shot skins and carcasses found.

Estimates for the proportion of head-shot kangaroos by State, industry sector and inspection type are given in Table 4.4. The results in this table are shown separately for kangaroos that have been shot for pet food and those shot for human consumption.

Kangaroos shot for human consumption were less likely to be head-shot than those shot for pet food. Overall, for skin inspections, only 94.3% of human consumption kangaroos were head-shot compared to 96.0% of pet food kangaroos. Comparisons between the States for the two industry sectors found that, for skin inspections, South Australia had the highest percentage of head-shot kangaroos (98.2% for pet food and 96.7% for human consumption), followed by NSW, then WA and finally Queensland (94.6% pet food and 90.4% human consumption).

A further comparison of skin inspections of kangaroos shot only for skins with those shot for carcass processing (pet food and human consumption combined) in Queensland is also shown in Table 4.4. Skin inspections of the sample of kangaroos shot only for skins showed a significantly higher proportion of head-shot animals (97.8%) than skin inspections of kangaroos shot for pet food and human consumption combined (95.9%) (c2=9.2, 1 df, p<0.01).

Table 4.4 Estimated percentage (95% CI) of head-shot kangaroos at processors
in each State, based on inspection of carcasses, skins and skin-only skins

Inspection sample

State

Pet food

Human consumption

 

Carcass

NSW

99.6%

(99.1-99.8)

98.9%

(97.9-99.5)

 

QLD

97.8%

(96.0-98.8)

94.5%

(91.5-96.5)

 

SA

99.8%

(98.5-100.0)

99.5%

(96.5-99.9)

 

WA

96.9%

(93.7-98.5)

92.3%

(86.5-95.7)

Skin

NSW

97.8%

(96.4-98.6)

95.9%

(93.1-97.7)

 

QLD

94.6%

(92.6-96.0)

90.4%

(86.2-93.4)

 

SA

98.2%

(96.3-99.1)

96.7%

(94.3-98.1)

 

WA

96.0%

(92.1-98.0)

92.8%

(86.0-96.4)

   

Skin-only

Carcass

Skin-only skins

QLD

97.8%

(96.4-98.6)

95.9%

(93.1-97.7)

 

4.3.2 Comparison with the 1985 survey

The 1985 RSPCA survey reported proportions of head-shot kangaroos for each State which can be compared with the estimates for the present survey shown in Table 4.4. With the exception of skin inspections of kangaroos shot for human consumption in NSW, each of the 1985 State figures falls below the respective lower 95% confidence limit for the present survey figures. Unfortunately only some of the raw data are presented in the 1985 report. This limited the detail of comparison between the two surveys, however a comparison of figures for Queensland and NSW was possible. 

The proportions of head-shot kangaroos for the reported 1985 data for NSW (n=256) and Queensland (n=483) are shown in Table 4.5, along with the respective figures for 2000/2002.  Analysis of these data indicated a significant time ´ State interaction (c2=6.6, 1 df, p<0.05) for carcass inspections. This means that the increase from 1985 to 2000/2002 in the proportion of kangaroos that were head-shot differs between these two States.  The States were therefore considered separately.

There was a highly significant (p<0.01) increase in the proportion of head-shot kangaroos in the present survey compared to 1985 for both NSW (c2=18.1, 1 df) and Queensland (c2=14.0, 1 df), with no interaction between time and inspection for the Queensland samples. While the improvement in the proportion of head-shot kangaroos shown in Table 4.5 may seem more dramatic for the Queensland samples than the NSW samples, the reduction in the proportion that were body-shot is actually greater for the NSW samples. From this subset of the 1985 data, the proportion of body-shots in 2000-2002 was 0.14 (95% CI: 0.06-0.35) of that recorded in 1985 for NSW, and 0.41 (95% CI: 0.26-0.65) of that recorded in 1985 for Queensland.

Table 4.5  Estimated percentage (95% CI) of head-shot kangaroos
from surveys in 1985 and 2000/2002 at processors in NSW and
Queensland.

Inspection

State

1985 (available data)

2000/2002

 

Carcass

NSW

95.3%

(91.8-97.3)

99.3%

(98.7-99.6)

Carcass

QLD

93.5%

(90.6-95.5)

96.3%

(94.4-97.5)

Skin

QLD

82.3%

(71.2-89.8)

94.9%

(93.6-96.0)

 

4.3.2.1 Proportion of head-shot kangaroos in the commercial harvest

A national estimate of the proportion of commercially killed kangaroos that are head-shot can be calculated by combining estimates of the proportion in various strata (State, sector) with harvest figures compiled by the various State agencies. These harvest data do not distinguish kangaroos shot for pet meat with those shot for human consumption.  However, Queensland distinguishes kangaroos taken commercially as skin-only from animals shot for carcasses. Harvest statistics for 1985 and 2000 are shown in Table 4.6 along with the estimated proportion head-shot in each stratum and the combined national estimate.  A confidence interval for 2000/2002 was calculated following the method described by Cochran (1977) [1]. To be conservative, the estimate of the proportion head-shot in 2000/2002 was based on skin inspections.

It is clear from Table 4.6 that Queensland, SA and WA have all improved considerably in the percentage of head-shot kangaroos since 1985. New South Wales has also improved, but the increase is small relative to the other States since it already had a high head-shot rate in 1985. In 1985 NSW had the highest rate of head-shot kangaroos at 95%, and it remained the highest in the present survey at 97.3%.

Table 4.6  Annual commercial kangaroo harvest and estimated percentage (95% CI)
of head-shot kangaroos in samples taken from processors across all States in 1985
and 2000-2002.

 

1985 Survey
(carcass and skin inspections)

2000/2002 Survey
(skin inspections)

Stratum

Harvest

% Head-shot

Harvest (2000)

% Head-shot

 

NSW

326,028

95%

883,478

97.3%

(95.8-98.3)

QLD  Human/peta

} 1,126,116

85%

818,080

93.5%

(91.6-95.0)

           Skin-only

558,732

96.9%

(95.2-98.1)

SA

114,643

84%

291,477

96.7%

(94.3-98.1)

WA

210,462

81%

194,031

95.1%

(90.7-97.5)

National

1,777,249

86%

2,745,798

95.9%

(95.0-96.7)

 
a Refers to purpose of shooting, ie for pet food or human consumption.

Table 4.7 Positioning of identified bullet holes in skins and carcasses of kangaroos

   

Total inspected

Body shots

Sample

 

Total

Shot in neck

Shot below necka

Skins

Processor

2021

93

83

10

 

Tannery

668b

20

20

0

 

Total skins

2689

113

103

10

Carcasses

Heads off

1837

18

18

-

 

Heads on

411

28

28

-

 

Skinned carcasses

146

0

0

-

  

Total carcasses

2394

46

46

-

aFigures not available for carcasses shot below the neck as it was not possible to consistently locate entry bullet holes in carcasses with their skins on.
b Includes 27 fleshed skins, one of which was recorded as neck-shot.

4.3.3 Location of bullet holes in body-shot kangaroos

It was clear from the inspections of skins that the vast majority of non-head-shot kangaroos had been shot in the neck rather than in the main part of the body. Table 4.7 provides a summary of the location of bullet holes (in terms of whether they were neck shots or below-the-neck shots) in inspected kangaroos.

Inspections for the location of bullet holes found that 213 skins had holes in the neck and shoulder area. Of these, 110 were considered to be exit holes for bullets entering the head, ie head-shot. The holes in the remaining 103 skins (3.8% of all skins inspected) were small and classed as entrance holes. These were considered to be evidence of neck shots. A further 10 skins (0.37% of the total) were found to have bullet holes in the main part of the body. These were located in the chest (3 animals), back (4 animals), hip (2 animals) and low in the shoulder (1 animal).

As described earlier, it was difficult to establish whether carcasses with their skins on had been shot in the body below the neck as entry bullet holes were difficult to detect. It was easier to detect neck shots in these carcasses, however this was also dependent on whether the head of the carcass had been removed. Of the 2394 carcasses inspected (head-off, head-on and skinned carcasses), 46 appeared to have been shot in the neck (Table 4.7). Of the 1837 carcasses inspected with their heads removed, only 18 (0.98%) were classed as being neck-shot. It was difficult to determine whether the neck wounds in these carcasses came from a bullet entering the neck or leaving. Often, if a kangaroo had been shot in the neck, then the head was removed at the point where it had been shot, as the vertebrae were usually broken where the bullet hit. Ten such neck wounds were found on carcasses without a head. In contrast, 28 (6.8%) of the 411 kangaroos inspected with their heads attached were found to have neck wounds. These wounds were definitely from bullets entering the neck at an angle parallel with the jaw. In these kangaroos, it was possible to inspect the head to determine whether the bullet had entered the cranium. All of the 28 neck-shot kangaroos examined had their heads undamaged. These were unambiguously classed as neck shots.

4.3.3.1 Effect of carcass presentation

Whilst it has already been established that skin inspections provided a more reliable method of detecting body shots than inspections of carcasses, the difference in the prevalence of neck shots in carcasses with their heads on compared to those with their heads off prompted further analysis.

Heads were left on all the carcasses shot for human consumption that were sampled in Queensland and Western Australia. The heads were removed from all other carcasses inspected. Consequently, any significant effect of the form of carcass presentation on the proportion of body shots detected would have been reflected in a significant sector ´ State interaction for carcass inspections, which was not the case.  In other words, while there was a higher proportion of body-shot human consumption carcasses in Queensland and WA, a similar trend was also seen in NSW and SA (Table 4.4) where heads were not left on carcasses brought to processors.

4.4 Discussion

4.4.1 Comparison with the 1985 survey

The Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos requires that a shooter using a rifle must aim so as to hit the target kangaroo in the brain. A kangaroo shot according to this method was classed in the present survey as being head-shot. The Code allows the use of a heart shot to dispatch a wounded kangaroo and it is possible that a kangaroo can be body-shot (if it is the second shot) and still be shot in accordance with the Code. According to the results of the 1985 survey, 86% of kangaroos surveyed at that time were head-shot. The results of the present survey indicate that that there has been a significant increase in the proportion of head-shot kangaroos to 95.9% of those kangaroos surveyed.

Extrapolating these figures to the commercial harvest puts these percentages in to some proportion. In 1985, the national commercial harvest of kangaroos was 1,777,249. 86% of these kangaroos were head-shot, and 14% were body-shot. This indicates that in 1985 248,815 kangaroos presented to processors would not have been head-shot. The total harvest in 2000 was 2,745,798, or 154% of the 1985 harvest. Applying the same principle, it is estimated that 112,578 kangaroos presented to processors in 2000 would not have been head-shot. Although it is clear that there has been a significant reduction in the number of kangaroos that were body-shot by commercial shooters since 1985, given the size of the commercial kangaroo harvest, this is still a matter of considerable concern.

There are a number of important qualifications that must be applied to these results when viewing them in more general terms:

  1. The results only represent the prevalence of head shots in kangaroos taken to processors. Given that many processors will only accept head-shot kangaroos, this sample must be regarded as a conservative estimate of the proportion of head-shot kangaroos in the total harvest.
  2. The sample does not include kangaroos that had been shot and injured but were not retrieved by the shooter. Accurate figures on injury rates during shooting are extremely difficult to obtain, however members of the Vertebrate Pest Unit of NSW Agriculture have accompanied kangaroo shooters to determine their method of shooting and have come up with an estimate. They found that 1-2 injured kangaroos will not be retrieved by the shooter during each shoot, ie about 1% of kangaroos shot are injured but not killed by the shooter (NSW Agriculture, unpublished data).
  3. The results do not take into account the effect on the dependent offspring of shot female kangaroos. In most cases these joeys would have died as a result of the shooting of their mother, either as a result of being killed by the shooter (as the Code requires for pouch young of shot females), or through subsequent predation or starvation. See Section 5.2 for a further discussion of this issue.

All these factors must be taken into account when assessing the overall humaneness of the commercial kangaroo industry. However, given that they apply both to the 1985 survey and the present survey, it is evident that there has been a significant improvement in the humaneness of the commercial kangaroo industry since the 1985 report was published.

4.4.1.1 Changes to the commercial kangaroo industry since 1985

The increase in the proportion of head-shot kangaroos found during the present survey indicates a major change in the approach taken to the harvesting of kangaroos, both by the processors and shooters. Since 1985 there have been a number of changes to the regulation of kangaroo harvesting and to the way in which the industry is run. Whilst it is not possible to establish a causal link between these changes and the improvement in the proportion of head-shot kangaroos, it is worth listing the main elements of change that have occurred. They include:

 

  • the introduction of the Code of Practice;
  • a greater demand for kangaroos for human consumption;
  • a greater demand for high health and safety standards for kangaroo products including the need to purchase and maintain approved equipment;
  • more efficient usage of each kangaroo with the development of value-added products and an acceptance of these products into supermarkets;
  • the introduction of policies rejecting body-shot kangaroos;
  • the introduction of courses on game meat harvesting and firearms competency tests for commercial shooters;
  • a general change in attitudes by those associated with the industry.

 

In general, these changes have led to an improvement in overall standards and a greater professionalism within the industry. However, to be fully effective, these improvements need to be applied consistently across the industry. Further information on these developments is presented in Sections 2 and 3 of this report.

4.4.2 Effects of State, processor and industry sector on compliance

The results indicate that both the State a kangaroo was shot in, and the industry sector that the kangaroo was shot for, and the processor the kangaroo was inspected at all had a significant effect on the proportion of head-shot skins and carcasses found.

Differences in the head-shot rate between processors are likely to be due to a number of factors, including the type of end product and the form of carcass presentation. Perhaps more importantly, this is also likely to be a reflection of the variation in the accuracy of the individual shooters bringing their kangaroos to a particular processor, and in the policies of individual processors in their definition and acceptance of non-head-shot kangaroos.

In 1985 there were considerable differences between the States in the proportion of head-shot kangaroos detected. At that time NSW was the only State with a head-shot rate above 90% (it was 95%). In the present survey the overall head-shot rates for all States was above 90%, with NSW still with the highest rate.

It was noted in the methods that, although the majority of kangaroos sampled would have been shot in the state in which the processor was located, some would have been brought in from a neighbouring State. This cross-border movement of carcasses would have introduced noise into the analysis but it is considered that its impact on the analysis was negligible.

All States have made progress since 1985 in their management of kangaroo harvesting, as has the industry as a whole. However, the differences between the States, especially the lower head-shot rate of Queensland compared to the other States, suggest that there may be lessons to be learnt by examining the management practices of other States.

In terms of industry sector, kangaroos shot for human consumption were found to have a lower proportion of head-shots (94.3%) than kangaroos shot for pet food (96%). It is difficult to determine whether the lower rate of head-shots for human consumption carcasses is a reflection of higher detection rates with these samples or is associated with some difference in this type of shooting. Since the same pattern was found for carcass inspections as for skin inspections it is likely that there is an underlying difference in the way in which these kangaroos had been shot.

Kangaroos shot only for their skins were found to have a higher proportion (97.8%) of head-shot animals than skin inspections of kangaroos shot for pet food and human consumption combined. This result is interesting since the sample of skin-only kangaroos was from Queensland, which had the lowest overall rate of head-shot kangaroos for carcass shooting.

4.4.2.1 The impact of 'zero tolerance'

So far only NSW has imposed the legal condition on commercial shooters that they will not possess or offer for sale any kangaroo carcass containing a bullet wound (ie only head-shot kangaroos are acceptable to processors). Part of the reason for the adoption of this policy is that there is no damage to the meat or skin. But there are also clear animal welfare considerations since the preference for head shots results in a more humane approach.

It is unclear whether the practice of 'zero tolerance' in NSW has led to a greater increase in the proportion of kangaroos that are head-shot compared to other States. All States appear to have made a considerable improvement over the situation in 1985. New South Wales had the highest head-shot rate in the present survey, but they were already particularly high relative to the other States in 1985 (Table 4.6). Nevertheless, compared to Queensland, NSW experienced a greater reduction in the proportion of body-shot kangaroos between 1985 and 2000/2002.

It is impossible to know how much the high head-shot rate observed for kangaroos shot in NSW was due to better shooter accuracy, or to the policy of 'zero tolerance'. The only way to reach a firm conclusion on the head-shot rate in NSW versus other States would be through the direct assessment of shooters, and there are considerable difficulties in obtaining an unbiased assessment of shooter accuracy in the presence of observers (see Section 4.2.1.4).

There is a persuasive argument against the use of zero tolerance. It can be argued that, if body-shot kangaroos are no longer accepted by dealers then a shooter that injures a kangaroo will have no incentive to follow the kangaroo and use a body shot to kill the animal, if a second shot to the head is impractical. There is always the probability that some injured kangaroos will not be followed and killed. This problem could be overcome by allowing injured kangaroos receiving a second shot to be sold to the dealer at a reduced rate, provided the head is retained (to show that a head shot had occurred - see Section 4.4.3.1). This suggestion was received positively by most processors and shooters. On balance, it seems that a policy of accepting only head-shot kangaroos is more likely than not to result in a more humane industry. Such a policy forces shooters to be very careful when shooting and to avoid those kangaroos where there is a possibility of an injury instead of a quick death.

4.4.3 Implications for inspection methodology

Perhaps the most important result of the present survey in terms of monitoring future head-shot rates and compliance with the Code of Practice, was the effect of the type of inspection sample on detection rates of head shots. It was found that body shots were 2.7 times more likely to be detected from a skin inspection than from a carcass inspection. This suggests that skin inspections are a far more reliable means of measuring compliance with the Code of Practice than inspections of carcasses. Inspection of skins also enables comparisons to be made between all industry sectors including skin-only shooting, since similar samples can be inspected. Inspection of carcasses may also be of use in assessing compliance in some circumstances, such as when skins are not available, and in this case it is important to consider the form of carcass presentation.

4.4.3.1 Form of carcass presentation

It was clear that examining carcasses with their heads attached (all human consumption carcasses in Queensland and WA were inspected in this form) increased the ability of the inspector in determining whether the kangaroo had been shot in the head or not. Assessing neck shots from these carcasses also appeared to be easier than when the head had been removed. However, it was not possible during the analysis to separate out the effects of carcass presentation from end product and State effects since comparable data (heads-off versus heads-on) from the same State and sector were not available.

There is an important advantage in presenting carcasses with their heads on in assessing compliance with the Code of Practice. With the head on, it is possible to determine whether a body shot found during an inspection was a follow-up shot or the first shot fired. Although the Code of Practice makes it clear that the point of aim of the shooter must be the brain, it is acceptable under the Code to use a shot to the heart to kill an injured kangaroo where a further shot to the brain is considered impractical or unsafe.

There have been cases where a dealer has rejected a kangaroo shot in the chest, but the shooter has insisted that the chest shot was the second shot required to kill an injured animal. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service lost a court case against body-shooting because the heads of the kangaroos were missing and it was impossible to determine whether or not the body shots were second shots (Murray Evans, QPWS). By the time enforcement officers are able to inspect kangaroos, their heads have usually already been removed. One solution suggested to counter this problem is to require that heads must be retained for inspection on carcasses of body-shot kangaroos until processing. This would not be practical for kangaroos that are taken for skins, as heads are not preserved by salt and therefore they could not be retained on the skin.  However, it is possible for skins to be removed from kangaroos that include the skin covering the rear part of the head. If the animal had been correctly head-shot, then the bullet hole would be apparent.

4.4.4 Point of aim and the prevalence of neck shots

The vast majority of bullet holes in body-shot kangaroos found during the present survey were in the neck rather than in the main part of the body. Of the skins inspected, 3.8% showed evidence of a neck shot and this type of shot was the major contribution to the overall proportion of body-shot kangaroos.

The 1985 Report noted that about 7% of professional shooters used the neck as the point of aim (taken from the results of a questionnaire survey of veterinarians). In the descriptions of the carcasses inspected during the 1985 survey, there were several reports of kangaroos that had been neck-shot. At Brewarrina, about 4% of the carcasses had been neck-shot and, in Western Australia, 22.5% and 37.5% of carcasses at two chillers were neck-shot.

When neck shots were pointed out to a shooter or processor, there was often confusion about whether the kangaroo should be accepted. As the skin and carcass of a neck-shot kangaroo is essentially 'undamaged', it would still achieve its full return as a commercial product, therefore there is less incentive to reject the kangaroo.

4.4.4.1 Humaneness of neck shots

There are three main shooting methods that can result in a neck wound. These are described in Box 4.1. Neck wounds may be the result of the exit of a bullet from the head (classified as a head shot), or the result of a bullet entering the neck, either from the front or from behind (classified as a neck-shot). The question is whether such shots can be regarded as humane.

Box 4.1 Mechanisms that can result in neck wounds
  1. A bullet enters the head, killing the animal, then passes down the upper spine to exit from the neck.
  2. A bullet enters low in the neck or in the upper part of the back and passes along the neck. This bullet may enter the cranium, or just stay within the neck region. This type of shot occurs when the kangaroo is feeding away from the shooter with its head bent towards the ground. The shooter then attempts to shoot the head via the neck.
  3. A bullet enters the middle to upper part of the neck directly from the front. If the animal is facing the shooter, then instead of aiming at the nose or upper cranium, the point of aim is just below the jaw and the bullet hits the neck.

 

There is general international agreement of the criteria by which a method of killing an animal can be declared humane. The method must induce instant insensibility (unconsciousness) and the animal must remain unconscious until death supervenes. Most research into the methods of causing instant insensibility/unconsciousness in large animals has been done with a penetrating captive-bolt stunner, although similar principles apply to the use of firearms. In relation to the killing of cattle, there are only two positions to apply the captive-bolt stunner to directly crush the cortex and deeper parts of the brain, or indirectly disrupt the brain substance due to the shock-wave created [2]. These are the frontal position (to damage the cortex), and the occipital position (to damage the cerebellum). The use of a captive bolt on the nape of the neck (directed between the occiput and first cervical vertebrae (C1)) is considered to be inhumane because it damages the spinal cord, not the brain.

 

Shooting a kangaroo with a bullet at vertebrae C1 or C2 (the atlas and axis) would damage the spinal cord and not the brain and is therefore an inhumane way to kill a kangaroo. The effect of a bullet at C3 or lower in the neck would also damage the spinal cord and not the brain and therefore would also be an inhumane way to kill a kangaroo. If a kangaroo is shot in the neck and the bullet misses the spine, the bullet could hit the carotid arteries and death could occur by exsanguination. This is similar to that resulting from a shot to the heart, a relatively fast death, but still regarded as inhumane as the animal would not become instantly insensible/unconscious.

4.4.4.2 Legal definition of a neck shot

The fact that the neck-shot kangaroos detected during the present survey had been accepted by processors indicates that there is a degree of uncertainty over whether such kangaroos should be regarded as head-shot or not. This requires further examination.

One of the conditions of a NSW Trappers Licence is that no bullet wound should be found in the carcass of shot kangaroos. The carcass is defined as 'the entire body (including the skin) of the kangaroo, excluding the head, tail, forearm (below elbow), foot (below tarsals/fibula joint) and viscera'. Can the neck region be taken as part of the 'entire body'? The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines 'neck' as 'that portion of the body lying between the head and shoulders'. Thus a bullet wound found in the neck should be considered as a body shot in NSW. Discussions with NSW NPWS staff indicated that they agree that such a definition covers their approach to defining a body shot.

Western Australia and Queensland use the diagram in Schedule 2 of the Code of Practice  ('Point of aim for a shot to the head and location of the brain') as their criteria for defining a head shot. However, in South Australia, a head shot is considered (at present) to be a gun shot to the brain. The South Australian description is not as clear as Schedule 2, as the brain stem is included as part of the brain, and this part extends to the second cervical vertebrae (C2).

The differences between the interpretation and classification of a neck shot from State to State indicate that there is a need for clarification of the definition of a head shot in the Code of Practice. A clear statement that a neck shot should not be classed as a head shot would help to clarify the present ambiguity, however it might also be helpful to revise the diagram in Schedule 2 of the Code. The current diagram defines an area of the head of the kangaroo by a dotted line (Figure 4.1) with a cross to represent the location of the brain. Removal of these dotted lines and an improved representation of the exact position of the brain would remove any ambiguity in this diagram. An excellent example of visual guides to enable accurate placement of firearms for humane killing is provided in the Humane Slaughter Association's publication Humane Killing of Livestock using Firearms [3].

Point of aim for a shot to the brain

 

Figure 4.1  Point of aim (X) for a shot to the brain and location of the brain (from Schedule 2 of the Code of Practice)

 

4.5 Conclusions

There has clearly been an improvement in the humaneness of the commercial killing of kangaroos between 1985 and the time of the present survey. In 1985 the overall proportion of head-shot kangaroos in Australia was 86%. In 2000/2002, the proportion was 95.9%. While this represents a significant increase in the proportion of head-shot kangaroos, there are three important qualifications that must be applied to these results. Firstly, they represent only those kangaroos taken to processors, secondly the sample does not include kangaroos shot and injured but not retrieved by the shooter, and finally, they do not take into account the effect on the dependent offspring of shot female kangaroos.

Even with these qualifications, there has been a significant improvement in the head-shot rate of the industry. There are many factors that may have contributed to this, including the introduction of the Code of Practice, an increased demand for head-shot kangaroos, as well as a general increase in the professionalism of the industry. These contributing factors should be examined and built upon, by both the industry and State agencies responsible for enforcement of the Code of Practice. Because of the sheer size of the kangaroo harvest, large numbers of kangaroos continue to be body-shot each year even when head-shot rates are relatively high, thus it is vital that improvements continue to be made.

As in 1985, the State with the highest head-shot rate was NSW at 97.3%, followed by SA and then WA. Queensland had the lowest overall head-shot rate 93.5%. The survey also found that kangaroos shot for human consumption had a lower head-shot rate than those shot for pet food, and that skin-only kangaroos had a higher head-shot rate than those shot for their carcasses. However, it was difficult to draw any firm conclusions on the reasons behind these State or end product effects. The differences between samples may have been due to a difference in the detection rate of body shots rather than to differences in shooting practices, although the latter cannot be ruled out. It is very important that the State authorities take note of their relative performance and examine their practices in the light of this survey.

From this survey, it has been established that it is possible to keep a check on the degree of cruelty associated with commercial harvesting by using the skins taken from carcasses to check for bullet holes. However, current inspections (through State agency and AQIS officers) do not provide a sufficiently consistent level of information to measure the humaneness of the commercial harvest in a similar way. If this is to be monitored appropriately, then a formal auditing process is needed which involves the inspection of the most reliable sample available (in this case skins) to assess compliance with the Code. Since the study found that body shots are 2.7 times more likely to be detected in skins compared to carcasses, skins are the most appropriate choice of sample for such an audit.

The survey also identified a degree of uncertainty in the industry about whether kangaroos with neck shots should be considered as body-shot. It is recommended that the definition of head shots and the point of aim could be clarified through improvements to the Code of Practice.

It seems from the results of the survey that the use of 'zero-tolerance' (processors will only accept head-shot kangaroos) as practiced in NSW may provide the best method of minimising cruelty in the industry. However, without directly assessing the compliance of shooters with the Code it is hard to make an accurate evaluation of the impact of this policy. The suggestion that injured kangaroos receiving a second shot could be sold to the dealer at a reduced rate, provided the head is retained (to show that a head shot had occurred), was received positively by most processors and shooters. On balance, it was concluded that a policy of 'zero-tolerance' was more likely than not to improve the humaneness of the industry.

RSPCA Australia recommendations - commercial killing

4.1 All States involved in the commercial killing of kangaroos, especially those with below -average compliance rates, should examine their current management policies in the light of the survey results presented in this report.

4.2 A formal independent auditing process, preferably involving the inspection of skins rather than carcasses, should be introduced as the best means of assessing the humaneness of the industry. Such an auditing process should be set into place within all States involved in commercial shooting of kangaroos.

4.3 The potential for the retention of heads on carcasses should be explored, to facilitate enforcement of the Code of Practice in cases where a follow-up body shot was required.

4.4 The definition of a head shot (shot to the brain) and the diagram in Schedule 2 in the Code of Practice must be clarified to unambiguously exclude neck shots. Shooters, processors and dealers need to be educated about the difference between a neck shot and a head shot.

 


 

[1] Cochran WG (1977) Sampling Techniques. John Wiley and Sons: New York.

[2] Andriessen A (1998) Meat Safety, Quality and Veterinary Public Health in Australia. Penny Farthing Publishing Services, Port Adelaide

[3] Humane Slaughter Association (1999) Guidance Notes No.3: Humane Killing of Livestock Using Firearms. Published by HSA, United Kingdom (info@hsa.org.uk)