Commercial kangaroo harvesting
Kangaroo meat and leather products are sold in Australia and in many markets around the world. Kangaroos are not farmed, but live in their natural habitat and are responsibly sourced (known as harvesting) in small numbers at a time by skilled, qualified shooters to be processed and sold domestically and internationally.
Commercial harvesting is a program permitted in six of eight Australian states and territories in areas with high kangaroo populations. A controlled and transparent commercial harvest is one way governments keep certain species of kangaroos at sustainable levels. It also reduces stress on agricultural land and helps to maintain Australia’s rich biodiversity. Without a commercial harvest, conservation culls and non-commercial harvesting would still take place and could result in poorer animal welfare outcomes.
Studies of kangaroo populations have found no long-term impacts resulting from more than 30 years of commercial harvesting. This is due to the use of strict and regulated quotas that are based on scientific survey methods.
The KIAA represents 90% of the commercial industry and only supports harvesting that is compliant with the National Code of Practice, which outlines the most humane way to harvest kangaroos based on the latest scientific research into kangaroo behaviour and ecology.
Commercial harvesting is strictly regulated and monitored to ensure conservation, animal welfare and health and safety standards are upheld. State governments develop unique kangaroo management plans to conserve kangaroos, measure populations, set boundaries for the harvest, outline how it will be regulated and ensure it’s not detrimental to the animals or their ecosystems.
Kangaroo populations rise and fall with seasonal conditions. If kangaroo populations become too large, many can die of starvation. They can also overgraze, which can lead to a loss of biodiversity. An uncontrolled kangaroo population also restricts farmers’ capacity to set aside pasture for their stock during drought conditions. As a result, government conservation culls and non-commercial harvesting would still remain in the absence of a commercial industry. This could result in poorer animal welfare outcomes.
Australian Government: Kangaroos are protected under The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), which is the Australian Government’s key piece of environmental law. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment approves state kangaroo management plans and regulates the export activities of the kangaroo industry under the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982. It registers processing facilities for export, oversees production to ensure food safety, and certifies kangaroo meat products. The Department is also involved in developing and maintaining market access for kangaroo products worldwide. The National Code of Practice was developed by a multi-discplinary reference group led by AgriFutures Australia.
State and territory governments: State regulatory bodies are responsible for wildlife management. Each jurisdiction develops and enforces its own kangaroo management plan to ensure kangaroo populations remain viable. They conduct regular population monitoring through aerial surveys and ground counts and set annual harvest quotas to safeguard against overharvesting. They put in place regulatory controls including harvest times, places, species, shooter and dealer licensing, number and location of dealer sites, possession licensing, total quotas and permits, and tagging.
Commercial kangroo industry: The industry conducts the commercial harvest and processes meats and skins in compliance with state legislation and the National Code of Practice. This includes following strict tagging and reporting requirements.
The commercial industry harvests kangaroos for commercial purposes whereas the non-commercial industry harvests kangaroos for reasons such as to protect agricultural land, recreational purposes or for science. Both commercial and non-commercial harvesting are regulated, but the standards for the commercial industry are much higher. In addition, illegal and unregulated harvesting can occur, which often results in poorer animal welfare outcomes.
There are separate Codes of Practice for both commercial and non-commercial harvesting. Commercial shooters must undergo training and pass a proficiency test before they are permitted to harvest kangaroos. No such training or testing requirements exist for non-commercial shooters. Tagging is also mandatory for commercial harvesters but not for non-commercial harvesting in all states. Commercially harvested kangaroos must also meet the conservation and animal welfare standards in the National Code of Practice to be accepted by processors whereas there are non-commercial harvesters are less accountable.
All harvesters in Australia have a duty of care to ensure kangaroos are taken in a manner that minimises pain, suffering and distress.
There are 50 species of kangaroos and wallabies in Australia. Of these only four species of kangaroo and two species of wallaby can be commercially harvested. Population estimates are based on state-of-the-art aerial and ground surveys conducted by state governments in the areas where commercial harvesting occurs. The actual national populations would be significantly higher as these figures do not include estimates for areas not surveyed.
State harvest levels (or quotas) are based on population surveys. Quotas may be modified during the year based on seasonal conditions, the results of additional surveys and monitoring of the harvest. Restrictions may be placed on the harvest such as closing certain areas down or placing weight and size limits on the animals taken. Of the more than 40 million kangaroos in Australia, around 15% of only a few abundant and protected species are allowed to be harvested by the commercial industry every year.
Kangaroos are harvested by skilled, qualified shooters who must pass a proficiency test every five years to prove they can meet the animal welfare, food safety and meat processing requirements of Australia and export markets. Mandatory licensing and tagging systems as well as regular government inspections mean every kangaroo harvested for the commercial industry was done so humanely in line with the National Code of Practice and the Australian Standard for the hygienic production of wild game meat for human consumption.
Kangaroo is a uniquely Australian resource. The commercial industry produces high-quality meat and leather products, responsibly sourced from an open range environment where kangaroos graze on the natural pastures and foliage of the Australian bush.
Kangaroo leather has no equivalent in terms of quality and strength. It is the strongest and lightest natural leather available. Kangaroo skin has a unique fibre structure that runs parallel to the leather surface to provide exceptional rope-like strength.
Australian kangaroo meat is among the healthiest, tastiest and most sustainable red meats in the world. As a result of grazing in the wild, kangaroos produce meat that’s free from antibiotics, added growth hormones and added chemicals. Kangaroos are soft-footed, which means less damage to soil and vegetation. If effectively managed, they offer the possibility of a meat production system that helps to maintain ground cover and biodiversity of plant species.
Kangaroo meat has a range of health and nutrition benefits, including being:
* very high in iron very high in protein
* 98% fat free
* highest known dietary source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is a fatty acid that can contribute to the reduction of body fat.
The commercial kangaroo industry in Australia is highly regulated and monitored. Harvesters must comply with the Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production of Game Meat for Human Consumption. Compliance against the regulations is monitored by state government authorities. Every kangaroo processed for human consumption meat is inspected by a government licensed meat inspector to ensure it is healthy and hygienic. In addition, the final product is subject to micro-biological monitoring to ensure it meets government standards for safety.
Once ancillary benefits such as reduced agricultural damage, reduced road accidents and broader benefits to the community are add the industry currently contributes well over A$200 million per year to the economy. The industry supports around 2000 licensed harvesters and generates many more jobs in the processing and transport sector as well as in government, sales and other allied activities.