Fun facts about kangaroos:
- Their long back legs cannot operate independently. That’s why they hop. When they are moving slowly (can’t really call it a “walk”) they pitch forward onto their T-Rex arms and use their thick tails as support as they swing their legs forward. Here’s a video.
- A joey stays with his momma for up to 18 months, and in the meantime Mom can have new baby tucked away in her pouch. Kangaroos are the only mammal who can produce two different variations of milk at once, targeting the specific developmental stage of each joey. Here’s more about joeys.
When we went on our Wild Kangaroo Odyssey last week (see #4 in my Perth Favorites list–they are not in any particular order btw), the ever astute Mr. HP asked our gracious tour guide where kangaroo meat comes from–are there kangaroo farms in Australia? We were pleased to hear that no, kangaroos are not farmed; kangaroo meat comes from wild kangaroos shot by licensed hunters. Seemed ethical to us. But as I read more, I learned it’s not that simple.
Kangaroos are recognized worldwide as Australia’s mascot. They are protected by state and federal law, and appear on the federal coat of arms. They are also a nuisance to farmers, gardeners, and drivers, and lack natural predators in an urbanized environment, similar to white-tailed deer on the East coast of the US (watching the kangaroos, they reminded us a bit of deer). As with deer back home, hunting helps to keep the kangaroo population in check. The Australian government has strict regulations regarding hunter licensing and kill quotas, and only permits hunting in areas where kangaroos have been declared a nuisance. The quotas are reviewed yearly, based on population trends and climate predictions, with conservation of the species the most important objective. Kangaroo meat is touted as a leaner, hormone- and antibiotic-free alternative to beef, and more environmental: wild kangaroos require far less water and release much less methane than farmed livestock.
- Apparently unlicensed hunting is rampant (and unregulated) and quotas are often ignored.
- Killing a doe counts for one kill against the quota, but commonly leads to the death of up to three kangaroos: the doe, the joey at her side who cannot yet fend for himself, and the joey in her pouch who is obviously dependent on his mother.
- Pouch joeys are commonly bludgeoned to death.
- Alpha males tend to stand their ground to defend their group and are therefore likely to be killed by hunters, leaving the lesser males to dilute the gene pool.
- Kangaroo meat is often not handled hygienically and can carry disease and toxins. For these reasons, some countries, including Canada, have banned its importation.
For people who are not against kangaroo meat, there is a movement called kangatarianism, which prescribes following a vegetarian diet with the addition of kangaroo meat, since “Australian kangaroos live natural lives, eat organic food, and are killed humanely.” There’s also a similar cameltarianism movement! Bonus points for great names–and who knew there are feral camels in Australia?
So, as with everything, it’s up to the consumer to understand the issue and make an informed decision for herself on the ethics of kangaroo meat. What are your thoughts?