4 October 2023

ACT Government and Environment Minister accused of 'knowingly' lying about aspects of kangaroo culling program

| Claire Fenwicke
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Kangaroo populations are controlled through a number of methods in the Territory, including culling. Photo: ACT Government.

The ACT Government and Environment Minister have been accused of misleading the public about kangaroo culling locations and practices off the back of documents released under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.

Advocacy groups Save Canberra’s Kangaroos (SCK), Animal Liberation ACT and Animal Protectors Alliance released a joint statement claiming the government had “secretly butchered hundreds of kangaroos” in nature reserves throughout July and “knowingly” lied about commercial hunting bans.

The government has denied every accusation and a spokesperson urged the groups to “refrain from disseminating misinformation”.

The FOI documents, seen by Region, contain kangaroo management program shift reports from throughout the winter months.

The advocacy groups said these “secret” documents showed culling had been approved “under the cover of dark” at Ainslie/Majura, the Pinnacle and Mulanggari Nature Reserves.

“[The government] already turned the Bush Capital into a slaughterhouse of Australia’s most iconic animal,” SCK spokesperson Jane Robinson said.

“Now we discover they’re wilfully misleading Canberrans by concealing the late-night butchery and breaching their own ban on the commercial killing of animals.”

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Both butchers and vets were on site for some of the nights, with one Pinnacle Nature Reserve culling shift detailing how it had reached the target of 51 kangaroos in one night while testing butchering at smaller sites for the first time.

“Tonight is the first night of operating at the Pinnacle for some time. Target density was achieved at this site in 2015 and has remained at or close to target density since,” it stated.

“The butcher was on site at the Pinnacle, this is the first time butchering has occurred on this site. Typically butchering is done in larger sites where staging is very inaccessible to the public.

“Temporary fencing was erected and used to screen the butcher. If this model is successful, it will increase the number of sites that we can butcher and increase the number of carcasses that can be utilised.”

The documents go on to detail the outcomes of various shifts, with about 3400 dog/fox meat baits produced and 28 skins salted and prepared for tanning across five nights in June, while 600 baits and five skins salted at another point.

“Skins will be provided to Ngunnawal community for cultural use, some will be tanned by community, and some will be provided already tanned,” the report stated.

The groups said this was proof the government was breaching its own rules around commercial hunting.

“ACT Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti’s ‘Kangaroo Management Program’ enables the hunting of kangaroos and joeys, but we are appalled and outraged it also allows butchering them into over 3400 meat baits,” Ms Robinson said.

“The kangaroo and joey meat baits have commercial value as they are then injected with the highly toxic and painful 1080 poison to kill foxes and dingoes.

“The minister and government have kept this hidden, including at this year’s committee hearings. It has only come to light because of the FOI documents.”

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Minister Vassarotti’s office has refuted every claim made by the advocacy groups.

A spokesperson from the minister’s office stated the government maintained a dedicated website to keep the public informed about all aspects of the Eastern Grey Kangaroo Management Program and publicly released information about management activity in reserves – including at Ainslie, Pinnacle and Mulanggari in July this year.

Media outlets are also provided with statistics and targets from the program.

“Any suggestion that these measures lack transparency is factually incorrect,” the spokesperson said.

Information is also available about carcass utilisation.

“Carcasses, or parts thereof, are made available for indigenous cultural use, food for endangered species breeding programs, and a proportion of the kangaroo meat is processed into baits for use within the ACT Government wild dog and fox control programs,” the spokesperson said.

“The process by which carcasses are made available for indigenous cultural use is not commercial. They are not sold to the community, and the government does not make money out of this process.”

The move to utilise carcasses for the fox and wild dog baiting program was made after the community had expressed concerns about potential wastage from the program.

“It’s important to note that this does not involve any commercial aspect of the Eastern Grey Kangaroo Management Program, as there are no profits generated from these practices,” the spokesperson said.

“The insinuation that the government undertook the Eastern Grey Kangaroo Management program ‘in secret’ does not align with the evidence available to the public. Recognising that culling is a sensitive subject for some Canberrans, the government actively endeavours to transparently release information about the practice on an annual basis.

“It is at the discretion of these groups whether they choose to engage with the provided evidence.”

As for the claims Minister Vassarotti has misled the Assembly and the public, the spokesperson said the information the groups had ‘uncovered’ had been publicly available for years.

“While it’s entirely valid for these groups to hold opposing views regarding the cull, it is integral that they refrain from disseminating misinformation,” they said.

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wildlifewarrior7:41 am 06 Oct 23

mm sorry but i don’t think the butchering of kangaroos on the reserves has been public knowledge until now.. the fact many news outlets have covered a story on this just now shows that this is the new news. i would encourage Vassarotti’s office not to engage in misinformation. Aside from that why are we killing a native animal to turn it into baits to kill another native animal (dingo)? seems to me that the ACT Gov is the one causing ecosystem imbalance… probably should just leave the native animals alone.

I’m “bloody” horrified, but not surprised at the behaviour of the ACT Labor/Greens government. This article clearly shows that Andrew Barr and Rebecca Vassarotti have gone to great lengths to cover up cruelty towards our precious wildlife. While Canberrans don’t have the time or expertise to completely understand what the government is doing, it doesn’t take a PhD to realise something is very wrong here. A BIG thank you to Jane and all the people who are working hard to bring light to what is happening in the dark

How about Riot Act publishing a balanced story on kangaroo culling instead of pandering to the pro kangaroo extremists all the time.

Pro tip – follow the science not the nutters.

Are you referring to the ACT Government’s science which has already been debunked through various ACAT Hearings, public submissions on the 2017 Kangaroo Management Plan, the CSIRO Report on the Government’s own data, the citizen scientist report on kangaroo populations. The ACT Government’s annual kangaroo slaughter is a cruel
falsehood overlaid with poor science.

“Minister accused of ‘knowingly’ lying”. The tie that has bound self-government for 23 years and still holds strong.

GrumpyGrandpa3:47 pm 04 Oct 23

And these groups wonder why culling is being done at night in areas inaccessible to the public? Could just be because your members would try and stand between the kangaroos and the bullets!

Sadly, I’m not sure whether the animal groups actually realise that without sufficient food, kangaroos will stave to death.
Who at times, hasn’t seen roos in suburbia looking for a feed?

Oh, the poor foxes. Lets not use baits to poison them. Let’s just let their numbers increase and in leaner times, stave to death or invade suburbia, looking for an easy kill.

Sadly, I’m not sure whether the animal groups actually realise that carnivous animals like foxes aren’t vegetarian or vegan. They kill for their supper.

Without whistleblowers who observe and document what the government and their hired guns are doing, Canberrans would never know what is happening to their urban kangaroos. Part of being in a democracy is to invite scrutiny on wildlife mgt, and the ACT Government should not be immune to public comment.

Haha, I didn’t think it would be possible for the anti cull activists to clutch at straws any harder but this is next level delusion.

I can’t believe they actually think their views are in anyway matched with reality, the FOI’d documents simply show standard practice that is not remotely secret.

Without a proper independent review, the unexamined question is how killing kangaroos for the last 15 years has been effective. What is missing is any reporting on research about the role of the kangaroo species in their ecosystems — what do kangaroos contribute to healthy grassy woodlands? How have they co-evolved with those habitats. Equally missing is any reporting about the benefits of coexistence and what that might look like.

How rare for this minister to not jump at the opportunity to talk to media. Please step up and put these people in their place Rebecca, or do you secretly agree with them?

greensareliars1:10 pm 04 Oct 23

Again the pro-extinction activists are making misleading and ridiculous claims in there pursuit of the extinction of our iconic native species that rely on our healthy open grasslands for their survival. If only we could get these people to care for lizards and moths as much as they care for what is likely the most prolific species in the Territory

Claims that culling is to protect threatened species is an absolute joke when developments have so often followed the killing, and consequently killed every living thing that the cull was alleged to be protecting (Lawson, Googong, Mugga Lane tip, Mugga Lane quarry, Mugga Lane horse paddocks, roads, bike paths, the Long Gully Solar Farm, the proposed Southern Memorial Park, the Majura Parkway and the Majura solar park)

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