4 September 2022

'Blunt trauma' used to kill joeys as research continues into kangaroo cull replacements

| Lottie Twyford
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Collared kangaroos

The ACT Government will use contraceptives as a form of kangaroo population control. Photo: File.

CONTENT WARNING: This story may distress some readers.

The ACT Government has conceded it used “blunt force trauma” to kill joeys whose mothers are euthanised in kangaroo culls.

The Territory undertakes a kangaroo cull every year between the beginning of March and late July. This time of the year is picked to avoid the months when most females have large dependent-pouch young or young-at-foot.

This year, 1645 eastern grey kangaroos were culled across the nine reserves. Culls have been underway in nature reserves in the ACT for around 15 years.

In budget estimates hearings on Friday (2 September), Opposition spokesperson for the environment Nicole Lawder put the heat on the government about what exactly happens to young found alive in their mother’s pouch.

She questioned whether they were “clubbed” to death – terminology government officials objected to.

READ ALSO Where do kangaroos go when they die? And other facts about Canberra’s conservation cull

Officials said joeys were killed instantly by “blunt force trauma”, which they stated was in line with the national code of practice.

The hearings were told this method was recognised to be more humane than leaving the young alone to be predated upon.

Officials took it on notice to provide more detail about what those methods of killing were and what objects were used. They also took on notice how many joeys were killed this year in the cull.

Rebecca Vassarotti

Minister for the Environment Rebecca Vassarotti said the Territory put animal welfare first. Photo: Region.

Minister for the Environment Rebecca Vassarotti said the ACT was “at the forefront of managing best practice” for conservation culling.

“The animal welfare practices are supported by organisations such as the RSPCA … and we are looking at other mechanisms of kangaroo management – including fertility treatment to minimise the need to cull,” she said.

“No one likes doing a kangaroo cull but we … recognise the scientific basis and the need to do this to protect some very vulnerable ecosystems.”

Kangaroos are culled with a single headshot which has been nationally agreed upon as the most humane method of culling.

READ ALSO Canberra rocket men and women sought ahead of space centre launch

Ms Vassarotti said the government was investigating alternatives to reduce its reliance on culls. This included the use of infertility drugs such as GonaCon, which has been trialled since 2015.

In April, $300,000 was committed to a program through which darts loaded with the drug are fired at adult female kangaroos. Drug trials have left around 80 per cent infertile five years after first being injected.

During Friday’s hearings, Labor backbencher Dr Marisa Paterson questioned what evidence the government had this method would work and would be cost-effective given there appeared to be little available.

Ms Vassarotti characterised the ACT as a research “leader”, as the drug had primarily been used in the context of other species in other jurisdictions.

“We have been working with researchers for a long time [on the project]. Up until last year, we had been trialling it in partnership with the CSIRO and we did find it was … effective,” she said.

“It is now fully integrated into the program, but at this point in time, we don’t see that we’ll be able to use it to completely replace current kangaroo management policies.”

“In the future, there may be technological advances [which allow us to do so], but [for now] we are at the forefront of this research space.”

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GonaCon suppresses the milk from the mother to the Joeys starving them to death committing animal cruelty, illegally genetically altering them committing mass extinction, $1.2 million of our monies abused and wasted on illegally torturing Kangaroos to death annually, more monies abused on their illegal daily violent killings torturing them to death committing animal cruelty and mass extinction. Stop abusing,wasting our monies on illegal violent convenience killings for developments committing animal cruelty & mass extinction, declare them to be a threatened species, establish a free bulk billing Medianimalcare Service for all Pensioners & low waged income earners for free consultations, treatments, surgeries for all animals & wildlife instead, to be able to choose their own participating Vets to take them to in order to save lives instead of torturing them to death. The killings have never been for Conservation reasons, they are for unnecessary developments. Kangaroos maintain a healthy well balanced ecosystem.’

The National Code Of Practice isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, it is not a legal document with legal penalties. It is what it says, mealy a ‘code’. It is impossible for a department official to make a random inspection of a shooter, they don’t know where a shooter will be at any given time. If they asked the shooter where they will be, the officers do not go and do an inspection because they may come into the line of fire, even the police will not go with them. Nobody but the shooters knows what goes on at the point of kill, so all the Government assurances are smoke and mirrors.

I’ve lost count of the number of lies government spokespeople have told about the government’s kangaroo killing program but the worst has got to be the lie that the killing is humane because there is a Code of Practice.

Leaving aside the fact that this Code, for what little it’s worth, is not enforced, the legal role of an “animal welfare” code of practice is not to prevent cruelty to animals but to permit acts of cruelty that would otherwise be prohibited under the Animal Welfare Act.

This commentary is anthropomorphic. Expert professionals, like veterinary animal welfare experts who develop animal welfare codes, must think from the animal’s perspective.

MANY people feel blunt force trauma is abhorrent (including vets), but because it achieves instant loss of consciousness, and destroys the cranium, it is the best way for the animal in these corcumstances. When animals and emotions are involved, be less selfish and be more scientific to find the best way.

The ACT Government’s science was exposed as nonsense during the 2012, 13 and 14 ACAT hearings. The CSIRO Report in 2014 adds further credibility to the claims that kangaroos do not damage the environment. And yet against all this evidence the ACT Government has been killing kangaroos at an enormous scale every year.

Please read my reply to chook58, regarding the killing of joeys and you will see why emotion comes into it.

Sceptic,
Exactly right and I think we all know that we wouldn’t be hearing any complaints if the animals weren’t “cute” and furry.

The cull is designed to protect both the long term environmental and biodiversity values of the ACT.
If there was a better and more efficient way to control these kangaroo populations, the government would do it.

But there isn’t.

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