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

3 Views of individuals and non-government bodies

3.1 Introduction

Comments and views were received from a number of individuals and non-government bodies. The views were provided through interviews, at meetings, or other modes of communication such as telephone conversations, email or letter. In addition, a survey by mail of veterinarians and animal carers was carried out seeking information about injured kangaroos observed and treated. A summary of the number of people interviewed and/or providing comments is shown in Table 3.1.

Table 3.1  Summary of people interviewed and/or providing comments                        

Groups/methods

No. interviewed

(a)  Interviews

 

       Individuals associated with the industry (Section 3.2)

 

                Shooters

15

                Processor workers

 3

                Processor owners

26

                Processor Managers

 9

                Tanners

1

                Development Manager, Kangaroo Industries Association
                of Australia

1

                Vertebrate Pest Research Unit (NSW Agriculture)

3

                          Total individuals

58

       Commercial shooter associations (Section 3.3)

 6

       Landholders (Section 3.4)

4

(b)  Meetings and miscellaneous communications

 

       Animal welfare groups (Section 3.5)

10

(c)  Mail survey (Section 3.6)

 

       Veterinarians

472

       Animal carers

42

                Total surveyed

514

A total of 58 individuals (excluding representatives of the commercial shooters associations) associated with the kangaroo industry were interviewed. The shooters were all people who made a living, either full-time or part-time, from commercially harvesting kangaroos. They were mainly interviewed when they brought carcasses into the processors early in the morning. Some were visited at home later in the day.

There was a wide range of processor operators (operators were defined as those holding the operator/dealer licence). Some were not directly connected with the day-to-day running of the processor but were closely involved with the development of the kangaroo industry. Others held the licence and worked the processor. Many processors, particularly those processing more than 300-400 kangaroos daily, had a manager that would oversee the operations. The processor workers interviewed were those involved in skinning and/or boning carcasses or salting skins. One tannery operator was interviewed.

Discussions were held with the Development Manager of the Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia. Three representatives of the Vertebrate Pest Research Unit of NSW Agriculture who are undertaking research into the kangaroo industry and shooter behaviour were also interviewed.

Associations of commercial shooters have been formed within each state visited and representatives from each of these associations were interviewed. The associations for each state are as follows:

  • Professional Shooters Association of Western Australia
  • South Australian Field Processors Organisation
  • NSW Professional Kangaroo Cullers Association
  • Queensland Macropod and Wild Game Harvesters Association Inc

Four landholders from Queensland and NSW were interviewed. The problems of kangaroo control were discussed and views were elicited on compliance with the Code.

Communication with several non-government animal welfare groups provided information about the concerns of these groups for the welfare of kangaroos killed commercially and non-commercially. In addition to discussions with individuals at meetings convened by animal welfare groups, including the RSPCA, there were communications, either by telephone, letter or email, from the following groups:

  • Australian Wildlife Protection Council
  • Wildlife Protection Association of Australia
  • Humane Society of Australia
  • Animal Liberation
  • Kangaroo & Wildlife Rescue and Information Service
  • Wildlife Information and Rescue Service
  • A Friend to Kangaroos
  • Rockhampton Wildlife Rescue, Education and Conservation Association Inc
  • Wildlife Carer Network
  • Koala Watch

Some of these groups, as well as other groups available for contact, were more concerned with conservation issues associated with kangaroo killing. Comments relating to such issues are not included as they do not relate to this study.

3.2 Individuals associated with the industry

A number of common issues were discussed with those interviewed. These involved the extent of non-head shooting, the use of 'zero tolerance' (ie only accepting head-shot kangaroos), the use of skin-only shooting, the number of part-time shooters in the industry, the occurrence of neck-shot animals, ways of controlling cruelty within the non-commercial kill, and opinions on the harvesting for game meat course and on the shooting accuracy test. A summary of comments and responses to these questions is given in Box 3.1.

Specific questions were also asked on the use of the Code of Practice. In response to questions concerning compliance with the Code, all individuals responded by stating that there were no problems in complying. All felt that the Code provided a stable basis for operating within the kangaroo industry, however several processors (two in NSW, one in Queensland, one in WA) remarked about the lack of inspections by law enforcement staff and any follow up of reports. There was a general agreement that the level of compliance during non-commercial killing was far lower than that occurring during commercial killing.

Nearly all shooters interviewed felt that a head shot in compliance with the Code was achievable. One shooter felt that a chest shot was better than a head shot, as it was easier to wound with a head shot, but a chest shot always killed. However, the exact definition of a head shot did not appear to be clear to some shooters (see point 2 in Box 3.1). It was clear from the responses given that, not only have the kangaroo management agencies adopted the criteria of head-shot only, but the industry also uses a similar standard. Part of the reason for this standard is that the product can be fully utilised, ie there is no damage to the meat or skin. But the industry is also concerned with the humane aspects of kangaroo harvesting and appears to reject any animal observed that has been shot in the body.

3.3 Kangaroo shooters associations

There are four kangaroo shooter associations, one in each of the States where commercial killing occurs. The associations were established to provide a voice for a group that felt that they were being ignored by the industry and the relevant government agencies. Discussions were held with representatives from all of the four associations. What follows is a summary of their responses. It should be noted that, since these interviews were carried out, a number of changes have occurred in the management of kangaroos that may affect the currency of the responses reported here.

Box 3.1 Summary of general responses from individuals associated with the kangaroo industry
  • Processors preferred head-shot kangaroos as there is no loss of product, ie no damage to meat or skin.
  • There were differences in the definition of a head shot. Some (mainly dealers) maintained that a non-head shot starts at a line behind the ears, whilst others (mainly shooters) believed there should be some latitude for those shot from the front or rear and a line between 2 and 5 cm down the neck should be used. However, nearly all believed that a head shot should be compulsory.
  • Refusal of body-shot kangaroos (zero tolerance) was seen as a good approach by both the shooters and the processors, as it leaves no room for bargaining. Several cases were cited where the carcass of a body-shot kangaroo had been rejected and the shooter not paid for that carcass. Some processors pointed out that they usually contacted the shooter and warned them against such shooting practices, ie there is a degree of self-regulation within the industry. One processor pointed out that he had sent a tag from a body-shot kangaroo to the appropriate wildlife agency but had not heard of any result from this action.

  • Shooters will use a second shot to kill an animal that has been wounded, even if the carcass is not accepted by the dealer. However, shooters are reluctant to chase a wounded kangaroo to kill it. The 'lost time' in retrieving a kangaroo is the main cost to a shooter.
  • A move to fully utilise the kangaroo and a need for a 'cleaner' product was reported (processed pet food products for supermarkets require a supply of undamaged kangaroo meat). This approach puts pressure on the shooter to provide a head-shot carcass.
  • Some individuals commented that skin-only shooting would weed out the non-serious shooter as it requires time away from home and a skill in skinning and salting. Others said that part-time shooters find skin-only shooting the easiest to utilise. It was also stated that carcass shooting requires a greater expenditure of finance to set up the equipment, greater skill to be able to dress the carcass correctly and an appropriate course must be undertaken.
  • Comments were made that it would be better to undertake the shooting accuracy test under more realistic conditions, ie at night with a spotlight and from a vehicle.
  • The suggestion of down-grading skins and carcasses that have been non-head shot was accepted by the majority of shooters and processors questioned, ie less value would be placed on these products thus providing an incentive for shooters to improve their skills.
  • Comments were made on the need for more research into the best type of projectile, calibre of rifle and power of cartridge to be used to ensure a swift kill.
  • Several commercial shooters commented that damage mitigation licences were a nuisance to harvesters as they lose part of their marketable kill, the kangaroos are stirred up by the shooters, and they see many cases of cruelty (mainly kangaroos shot in the body and left to die). Also, it was thought by some that these types of licences could work against landholders in that the larger kangaroos are eliminated and replaced by small wallabies, wallaroos and females that have no commercial value.
  • A large proportion of damage mitigation licences in Queensland are issued to smaller holdings, many of which are near bushland or national parks. Larger and less intensively used holdings seem to accept the presence of kangaroos as part of the operation.

 

3.3.1 NSW Professional Kangaroo Cullers Association

 

The NSW Professional Kangaroo Cullers Association stated they would like to see kangaroo trappers recognised as a full time occupation like the fishing and abalone industries. The Association stated that they would like to see the two types of licence [1] in NSW discarded and replaced by a single 'Commercial Trappers Licence' for a sustainable harvest. The Association also believed that there should be a cap on the number of licences issued and licences could be transferable to a new entrant replacing the existing trapper (giving value to each licence).

The Association also believed that the cap placed on the number of licensed wholesalers (currently 12) has created a monopoly that can dictate conditions for professional trappers. It was felt that wholesalers could restrict the quotas to each licensed trapper or on each chiller box. This leads to a greater number of kangaroos being destroyed for non-commercial purposes by landowners. The Association would like trappers to be able to sell their products to any wholesaler or fauna dealer, hence establishing a long-term viable group of professional kangaroo shooters and reducing the need for non-commercial shooting by land owners.

The Association believes that most professional kangaroo shooters rely upon a full-time commitment to kangaroo killing and do not kill cruelly, ie all kangaroos are head-shot. It is the part-time shooters that come into the industry when there is an increased demand for harvesting. Many of the part-time shooters are used when shooting is 'skin only'. In this situation, shooting kangaroos in the legs and other parts of the body occurs.

It was felt that a 'cap' on the number of Trappers Licences issued would help in establishing a stable industry and reduce the number of part-time shooters (and incidences of cruelty). Associated with such a move would be the introduction of stricter standards for a Trappers Licence and, perhaps, accreditation of professional shooters.

There was an acknowledgment that the system of Occupier's Licences for landholders results in cruel killing of kangaroos, and it was suggested that all holders of licences should have the same competency in killing kangaroos as professional shooters.

It was also felt that the law enforcement system was not working properly, because of inadequate staffing levels within regional and district NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) offices. There is only one law enforcement officer for western NSW and chiller inspection by local staff is limited. The present system allows people into the kangaroo industry with no knowledge of humane kangaroo killing. The Association feels that the NPWS does not enforce the criteria required to grant a Trappers Licence. The Association recommends stricter criteria for applying for a Trappers Licence and that landowners using non-commercial tags should abide by the Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos.

3.3.2 Queensland Macropod and Wild Game Harvesters Association

The Queensland Macropod and Wild Game Harvesters Association stated they were strongly against the issue of tags in lots of 100, in addition to 500, (as this was perceived as giving preference to part-time shooters) and they believe that this procedure is detrimental to the macropod management program. There is a cost factor associated with this type of tag that may have influenced the issue of smaller numbers. Many tags are lost to the full-time commercial harvester if issued to part-time shooters and not used by the end of the year. It was felt that this system would work against full-time shooters and could lead to less skilled shooters being encouraged.

They also asked that legislation be implemented that all harvesters, as part of the requirements for the issuing of their Commercial Wildlife Harvesting Licence, should now also require an ABN. An ABN indicates the entity attached to this number is a business and not a hobby. The Association strongly discourages a hobbyist from holding a Commercial Licence, as a Recreational Permit already exists and can be used by a hobby shooter.

The Association is lobbying for the development of open learning modules through TAFE to meet the requirements of the present Commercial Activities Course. They believe that a practical course for harvesters should be developed that includes firearms and ballistic techniques, butchering, shooting accuracy, shooting for human consumption, wildlife management, elementary book-keeping, vehicle maintenance etc. The aim is to produce an accredited 'wild game harvester' course that can be used in conjunction with pest control programs.

It was felt that the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service should withdraw licences from harvesters who have not met the requirements under the legislation, and that no new licences be issued until the current requirements are met. It was considered that ethical conduct be demonstrated and the Code of Practice adhered to before any person be permitted to harvest kangaroos.

3.3.3 South Australian Field Processors Organisation

The President of the South Australian Field Processors Organisation felt that all kangaroo shooters should be full-time, ie fully committed to the industry. He defined a part-time shooter as one that shoots under 4000 kangaroos a year. This organisation has been closely involved in the development of the TAFE course for game meat harvesters, and with the shooting accuracy test. The Organisation believes that all kangaroos should be shot humanely, ie there should be no 'shoot and let lie' permits that allow a shooter to kill kangaroos cruelly. There should be a closer policing of this type of shooting, or, better still, a policy that all kangaroos should be killed by commercial shooters.

3.3.4 Professional Shooters Association of Western Australia

The Acting President of the Professional Shooters Association of Western Australia stated his belief that the Damage Licence should be abolished as there is a large waste of kangaroo product and many kangaroos are shot inhumanely. He has been attempting to develop a shooting accuracy test for Western Australia but has not been successful to date. It was also stated that there is a need for all shooters to undertake a course on kangaroo harvesting including a shooting accuracy test (see Section 2.4). He also commented that the definition of a head shot should include the atlas and axis, ie the first two vertebrae.

 

3.3.5 Summary of responses

 

In general, all the representatives of the shooters associations felt that there was a need for a greater recognition of the professional shooter as being one who is committed full-time to commercial harvesting and is prepared to accept certain standards and accreditation procedures. All representatives felt that compliance with the Code was not a problem for professional shooters and welcomed a stable basis for killing kangaroos. All representatives felt that compliance with the Code was far lower during non-commercial killing activities.

3.4 Landholders

An alternative view from that held by the shooters associations came from discussions with landholders. Here, the overall feeling was that the number of professional shooters should not be restricted, as this would lead to 'indifferent' treatment of the landholder. At present, it is customary for a shooter to be connected with several landholders over a long-term. This provides continuity for the shooter and reliability of damage mitigation for the landholder. However, often a shooter will obtain permission to shoot (and hold the accompanying licence) from too many properties resulting in a delay in responding to a landholder's request to remove excess kangaroos. It was felt that restricting the number of shooters could exacerbate this situation. Rather, it was suggested that the number of kangaroo shooters should be allowed to stabilise according to market demands.

Landholders interviewed felt that the selection of a kangaroo shooter is based upon that shooter's ability to efficiently remove the required number of kangaroos. Shooters that are badly organised, do not respond to a request to shoot kangaroos or show inhumane methods, do not last long in the industry as landholders will not use them. Some landholders noted that there were troublesome shooters about, and that these were usually excluded. Troublesome usually meant that the shooters would leave gates open and/or take stock.

Another idea expressed by some landholders was to undertake the commercial killing of kangaroos themselves. With the pastoral industry struggling to obtain a reasonable cash-flow, there is a move to utilise as many resources on a property as possible to maximise the income stream. Augmenting the traditional sources of income with that from animals and plants usually considered as pests is becoming more popular, eg utilisation of feral goats and pigs, carp and weed species such as St John's Wort. Several landholders interviewed are considering undertaking the appropriate courses and obtaining a commercial shooters' licence. There was also talk of exploiting a recreational shooting market. The Tilpa Rangecare Group in NSW had been attempting to put this idea into practice for many years by developing 'a system whereby member landholders realise a financial return on the kangaroos they are running on their properties [2]'. (Kangaroo shooters complain that landowners holding a commercial harvesting licence usually do not use the tags issued to them and will not allow outside shooters to harvest on their properties.)

When discussing methods of killing, all landholders stated that they would always shoot a kangaroo humanely and all knew about the Code of Practice.

 

3.5 Animal welfare groups

 

There were many general comments by animal welfare groups about the cruelty associated with the killing of kangaroos, as well as specific instances describing acts of cruelty known to have occured to individual or groups of kangaroos. The comments presented here encapsulate the general views put forward on subjects such as compliance with the Code and the extent of cruelty associated with kangaroo killing.

A number of animal welfare groups have called for an end to the commercial killing of kangaroos for many reasons, including the belief that the industry is inherently cruel. The 1998 report by the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee on the 'Commercial Utilisation of Australian Native Wildlife' provides statements from several major animal welfare groups on the cruelty associated with the killing of kangaroos. The Australian Wildlife Protection Council (AWPC) 'believes that the kangaroo industry is inherently cruel and the Code of Practice is a farce' (point 9.49). Animal Liberation (ACT) and Animal Liberation (Victoria) submitted that the killing of kangaroos was the 'cruellest wildlife slaughter in the world' (point 9.50). The concerns of these and other organisations were grouped in the Senate Report into five main points. These points are presented in Box 3.2 and provide a useful summary of the main arguments put forward against the commercial harvesting of kangaroos.

Box 3.2 Main arguments put forward in opposition to kangaroo harvesting

Opposition by some groups to the harvest of kangaroos has existed for many years, both in Australia and overseas. This opposition is variously based on:

  • a blanket opposition to any use of animals for any purpose
  • the view that the kangaroo harvest is inherently cruel
  • the view that wildlife is different from domesticated livestock and should not be used commercially
  • the view that kangaroos should not be considered to be a pest (the problems lies with inappropriate agricultural practices which should make greater efforts to accommodate kangaroos)
  • the belief that it is not possible to harvest wildlife in a sustainable manner and therefore any commercial use of wildlife will result in a threat to the species; or
  • a combination of the above.

(Adapted from the 1998 Report of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Reference Committee into the Commercial Utilisation of Australian Native Wildlife)

Of particular concern to animal welfare groups was the killing of pouch young and the abandonment of young at foot when the mother is shot. Other concerns raised during the interviews included an illegal trade in kangaroos and the use of personal use tags (non-commercial Destruction Permits) in South Australia [3]. These tags allow the removal of a shot kangaroo from a property where a Destruction Permit has been issued which, it was suggested, encourages the use of sporting or recreational shooters to hunt the kangaroos on the properties, sometimes at a financial gain to the property owner. These concerns are discussed further in Section 5.

Specific instances of cruelty cited by animal welfare groups include well-publicised ones, such as the shooting of 20 grey kangaroos at Worrolong, near Mount Gambier in South Australia, in which eight were found injured and needed to be destroyed. Other instances include the case of school students clubbing two kangaroos to death, the discovery of a kangaroo with its jaw shot, and descriptions of chillers where it is possible to find kangaroo carcasses 'that have been shot all over the body'. One problem with many of the reports on specific instances of cruelty to kangaroos is that they are often repeated by different groups and are mistakenly considered as separate cases. In terms of compliance with the Code of Practice, such accounts can only serve to indicate that specific incidents of non-compliance do occur. It was not possible to provide an assessment of the level of compliance from such information.

Some comments on cruelty to kangaroos were made in the responses to the questionnaire sent to veterinarians and animal carers (see Section 3.6). There are descriptions of the use of dog traps and dogs to catch wallabies feeding in banana plantations, of kangaroos being cruelly killed by illegal shooters, of indiscriminate shooting of kangaroos within smallholdings in settled areas and specific cases of finding kangaroos with their legs amputated or that have been castrated. It was impossible to investigate the reporting of specific instances of cruelty during this study. Rather, the aim was to pass on information and views provided by non-government animal welfare groups.

3.6 Survey of veterinarians and animal carers

In the 1985 Report, a questionnaire was sent to veterinarians throughout country Australia seeking information about injured kangaroos observed and treated. The results of the questionnaire were used to help determine the extent of cruelty associated with the killing of kangaroos. A similar questionnaire was developed for this present survey.

3.6.1 Methodology

The original 1985 questionnaire was sent to 731 veterinary practices across country Australia. For the 1999 survey, it was decided to increase the range of recipients of the questionnaire by including animal carer groups, because of their involvement with the care and rehabilitation of native animals including kangaroos. Since 1985, there has been an increase in the number of animal carer groups throughout Australia, with groups such as WIRES (Wildlife Information and Rescue Service) known nationally. Only animal carer groups directly involved in the care of injured animals were targeted. In addition, the number of veterinary practices included in the mail-out was considerably increased. The 1999 questionnaire and accompanying letter were sent to 2000 veterinary practices and to 76 wildlife carers (Table 3.2).

Table 3.2  Questionnaires sent and returned

   

1999 Survey

 

1985 Survey

Veterinarians

Carers

Total

No. questionnaires sent

731

2000

76

2076

No. questionnaires returned

193 (26.5%)

472 (23.6%)

42 (55.2%)

514 (24.8%)

The 1985 questionnaire contained a series of 13 questions relating to the treatment of injured kangaroos, knowledge or sightings of injured kangaroos, and the nature of kangaroo shooting in the area covered by the participant. Most of the questions used in the 1985 questionnaire were repeated in the present questionnaire to ensure a direct comparison could be made between the results obtained in 1999 and 1985. The only omission was the removal of specific questions relating to the most common methods used to kill kangaroos since the introduction of the Code of Practice had made these questions obsolete.

Box 3.3 provides a list of the questions and options for responses given in the questionnaire. A copy of the letter accompanying the questionnaire sent to veterinarians and animal carers is provided in Appendix 5(a).

3.6.2 Results

Summaries of the responses to the 1999 questionnaire and comparisons with the 1985 survey are given below. Tables providing details of the responses to each question are given in Appendix 5(b).

3.6.2.1 Breakdown of responses

A greater number of questionnaires were returned for this survey than during the 1985 survey (Table 3.2), however, the proportion of returns compared to questionnaires sent was about the same. The results of the present survey are based on a total of 514 returned questionnaires (a 23.6% return rate), with 472 of these received from veterinarians and 42 from animal carers. The number of animal carers who responded was much lower than the number of veterinarians since only a small number of carer groups were included in the original mail-out.

As with the results from the 1985 survey, far more private veterinarians responded to the survey than those employed by government (380 private and 60 government veterinarians responded; see Question 1).

3.6.2.2 Reports of injured kangaroos

Questions 2 and 3 related to the direct treatment of injured kangaroos by veterinarians and wildlife carers. About the same proportion of veterinarians had treated injured kangaroos (Question 2) as in the 1985 survey (5.9% in 1999 compared to 7.5% in 1985). A far higher proportion of wildlife carers had treated kangaroos (60%) than veterinarians (5.8%). The number of kangaroos treated by respondents ranged from 1 to 30 (mean 6.7). Some responses to this question stated 'not many' or gave a number treated over a long period of time. These were not included in the calculations.

Box 3.3 List of questions contained in the1999 questionnaire
  1. If you are a veterinarian is your practice private or are you employed by the government?
    Private practice.......... Government employed..............
  2. Have you treated kangaroos with injuries resulting from obvious acts of cruelty?
    Yes/No Number...............
  3. How were the injuries inflicted?
    Rifle......... Shotgun........... Knife.......... Vehicle........... Other...........
  4. Have you inspected or heard about dead kangaroos with injuries resulting from obvious acts of cruelty?
    Yes/No Number...............
  5. How were these injuries inflicted?
    Rifle......... Shotgun........... Knife.......... Vehicle........... Other...........
  6. Do kangaroo drives occur in your area?
    Yes/No Common.......... Uncommon..........
  7. Who takes part in these kangaroo drives?
    Professional Shooters........... Property Owners.............. Weekend Shooters............... Others..............
  8. Do you know about any instances of kangaroos being poisoned?
    Yes/No Number................
  9. By whom?
    Professional Shooters........... Property Owners.............. Others...........
  10. Which group is responsible for killing the largest number of kangaroos in your area?
    Professional Shooters........... Property Owners.............. Weekend Shooters............... Others..............
  11. Any other comments on kangaroo killing or acts of cruelty in your area.

By far the most common reported cause of injuries to kangaroos were collisions with vehicles, accounting for 46.5% of all reported injuries. The most common methods reported for deliberately inflicted injuries were similar to that found the earlier survey, ie rifle, shotgun, knife and dogs. Of the responses relating to the treatment of injured kangaroos, 14.9% were rifle, 12.8% shotgun, 7.5% knife and 2.6% dog injuries. The proportion of injuries from dogs was lower in this survey than in 1985 (27% of injured kangaroos in 1985).

Questions 4 and 5 asked whether the veterinarian or wildlife carer had inspected or heard about dead kangaroos with injuries resulting from acts of cruelty. The responses to these questions may be less reliable than for questions 2 and 3 since they may have included hearsay or third party evidence. However, these results may provide some additional information. Because the veterinarian or wildlife carer was not involved in treating the kangaroos reported on, these results are likely to contain a higher proportion of fatal injuries than the responses to questions 2 and 3.

Despite this difference the overall results from these questions were very similar to the previous pattern. Only 5.3% of veterinarians stated they had inspected or heard about dead kangaroos with injuries resulting from obvious acts of cruelty (Question 4) compared with 10% in the 1985 survey. As with Question 2, the proportion of wildlife carers reporting such injuries (60.9%) was much higher than for veterinarians. The number of kangaroos involved ranged from 1 to 50 per respondent (mean 7.6). The highest proportions of injuries causing these deaths were from rifle shots (31.3%) and vehicle collisions (30.4%), followed by shotguns (17.4%), knives (4.3%) and dogs (4.3%).

A number of different causes of injury were given in the present survey compared to 1985. These were: snare, bow and arrow, iron bar and inexperienced carers. Comments about the difficulty of caring for young kangaroos were made in several of the responses.

3.6.2.3 Questions on kangaroo killing

When asked about the prevalence of kangaroo drives (Question 6), 25.8% of veterinarians and carers reported that drives took place in their area, slightly higher than the 1985 survey (19%). Of these, 20% said they were a common occurrence, and 61% uncommon (the remainder did not specify how common they were). As with the 1985 survey, property owners (46.4%) and professional shooters (33.1%) were the two groups most frequently reported as taking part in this practice (Question 7). It should be noted that 'kangaroo drives' were not defined in the question and the interpretation of this term may have varied across respondents.

A small proportion of respondents (1.7%) reported instances of kangaroos being poisoned (Question 8). The causes of poisoning reported were accidental, eg household chemicals, insecticide spraying, or by property owners and professional shooters (11 incidents in total; Question 9). Some comments suggested that poisoning of kangaroos may re-occur if too many restrictions are placed upon killing operations.

The majority of respondents indicated that the groups responsible for killing the largest number of kangaroos in their area (Question 10) were property owners (35.9%) and professional shooters (32.8%). These results were similar to the 1985 survey.

3.6.2.4 Other comments

A large number (153) of respondents provided comments in addition to their set responses to the questionnaire. Some of these were comparatively long and covered a variety of subjects associated with kangaroo (and other animal) management. Their comments can be grouped into the following issues:

  • Professional shooters are responsible people and are not cruel (32 responses).
  • Property owners and weekend shooters are responsible people. They kill (without a permit) for dog meat (14 responses).
  • Property owners and weekend shooters are main cause of cruelty to kangaroos (14 responses).
  • Much cruelty is caused by drivers who do not stop for injured animals when their vehicle has hit a kangaroo (5 responses).
  • If the restrictions on kangaroo killing are increased or the market is inhibited, then there will be more cruelty (4 responses).

There were two comments on professional shooters being cruel to kangaroos (one to do with releasing joeys), and three comments on reporting instances of cruelty to kangaroos to authorities and no action being taken.

Many of the smaller comments (usually annotations beside the appropriate question) concerned the damage to kangaroos by vehicles, or the damage to vehicles by kangaroos.

3.6.3 Discussion

3.6.3.1 Comments on the survey methodology

As stated previously, the questions in the 1999 questionnaire replicated those of the 1985 survey in order to enable comparison between the two surveys. In hindsight, however some of these questions were too ambiguous to provide accurate results. Questions 4 and 5 referred to indirect knowledge of dead kangaroos in addition to the direct experience of the respondent. The results from questions 4 and 5 may be based upon a certain amount of hearsay evidence, although as only people directly associated with the handling and treatment of animals (veterinarians and animal carers) were surveyed, it is likely that the level of hearsay information would be low. Questions 2 and 3 referred only to the direct experience of the respondent and are therefore more reliable in this regard. The use of the term 'kangaroo drives' in questions 6 and 7 was not defined. Kangaroo drives may mean a single shooter driving at night during a killing operation, or it may mean a group of people illegally 'driving' kangaroos into a trap, to be killed.

3.6.3.2 General conclusions

Despite the limitations discussed above, a number of useful general conclusions can be formed from the results of this survey. The present survey was very similar in its findings to the 1985 survey. As in 1985, only a small proportion of veterinarians had treated kangaroos, or inspected or heard about dead kangaroos, with injuries resulting from obvious acts of cruelty. Wildlife carers were much more likely to have treated injured kangaroos and are probably a better source of information on this issue.

The majority of kangaroos reported as being treated had been injured by vehicle collisions. The cruelty associated with vehicle collisions is considerable and the results here are only an indication of the actual numbers of kangaroos injured in such a way on Australian roads. More relevant to this report, however, were the reports of deliberate injuries from rifles, shotguns, knives, dogs, and the occasional report of other weapons including snares and arrows. A small number of poisoning incidents were also reported. These results indicate that there are problems with compliance with the Code of Practice in terms of methods of killing kangaroos, although it is not possible to gauge from the survey how widespread these problems are.


[1] Trapper's licence for professional shooters and Occupier's licence for land owners.

[2] Tilpa Rangecare Group Journal 1992-1994

[3] Doug Reilly (1996) The growing culture of institutionalised wildlife exploitation in South Australia. Paper presented at the conference on Self Regulation in the Kangaroo Industry: Is the Code of Practice an Appropriate Mechanism?, Canberra 1996