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A dog's breakfast: the unsustainable exploitation of wildlife

Life on land

“Australia’s landscapes will echo to the cries of the young animals, the ghost joeys on their journey to a long and cruel death."

May 21, 2023

The poor little joey in the landing image above is now an orphan, her mother was killed by Kangaroo shooters during the previous night so she could be turned into pet food. Mother’s head, hands and feet, along with her viscera are scattered nearby. If the joey is not rescued, she will die of starvation in the next few weeks.

Meat works for Kangaroos

Some very troubling news from Central Victoria in September2021 suggested that a local meat works wanted to open up a Kangaroo processing facility, that would, when fully operational, process 2,000 Kangaroos each week. That is 104,000 Kangaroos in one year. In 2021, the entire commercial trade in wildlife quota for Kangaroos in Victoria this year is 95,680. So just one of a number of Kangaroo meat processing plants in Victoria, plans to process more than the quota for the whole state. Even using the government’s inflated population numbers for the shire where the plant will be located, the entire commercial quota for that shire would be consumed in just over a week.The expectation would be that Kangaroo carcasses would be imported from elsewhere in Victoria and neighbouring states.

“Yes, I know about those joeys. At foot joeys were distressed and bounding aimlessly without their mothers. They couldn’t be caught, so they became increasingly distressed, bloated, and died tragic prolonged deaths. Primarily it was tragic for the young, orphaned joeys. I can’t even imagine. Of course, it was horrible for the humans who wanted to protect and save them but were unable to do anything to help them. The whole situation is immensely tragic” Dr Tamasin Ramsay 

The problems with all this

Problem ONE: The would-be plant says it will import Kangaroos from other states, all of which have steep declines in their Kangaroo populations and are also commercially processing Kangaroos.

Problem TWO: Initially discouraged, now a major part of the exploitation of Kangaroos, females are now being shot in very large numbers(about 30 per cent of the take) and that likely takes out two other generations of Kangaroos, the pouch-young and the at-foot-young still dependent on their mother. These young are beaten to death.

Problem THREE: Since the commercial trade was introduced into Victoria in 2014 the killing rate of Kangaroos in the state has all but tripled, while the government claims population increases.

“The big male Kangaroos were the first to be killed and taken. Over the 12 years of commercial shooting here we have seen the struggle for survival that the younger Kangaroos endure and fall victim to in their hundreds. It's not only the milk dependant Joeys as we know, the two and three year old Kangaroos that are still reliant on protection and guidance”.

Problem FOUR: There is a lot of collateral damage when you exploit wildlife for commercial purposes, no more so than for Kangaroos. Given the carnage out there, for every Kangaroo killed by the industry for processing another Kangaroo dies - joeys / mis-shot Kangaroos. Because the big males are being shot first and many of these are now gone from the most intensely shot parts of the state, females become the target so the proportion of females being shot is increasing rapidly - that takes out two more generations of male and female Kangaroos. The shooters in Victoria were given their license on the basis they did not shoot females with evident young - that of course is completely ignored in the free for all. There is no minimum size in Victoria so even small Kangaroos are being killed and end up in pet food cans.

Problem FIVE: Prey switching, the rapid decline of the commercially targeted Grey Kangaroo species will mean that other species will be targeted with the usual spin about booming populations, the Red Kangaroo anda couple of Wallaby species will be high on the list for further exploitation.

The miscalculation

It is fascinating that so many people swallow the spin about booming Kangaroo populations, a few minutes sitting quietly with a calculator would tell them a different story. Australia wide, this must be the world’s worst example, given its scale, of land-based wildlife exploitation.

The grim situation in New South Wales

“The boys (young male Kangaroos) have experienced terrible trauma, often night after night. They've been terrified for their own lives while also watching their fathers, grandfathers and brothers massacred in the most horrendous ways. The next day, if the shooters have wiped out all of the fathers, the little ones find their social structure has been completely destroyed. There is no-one to follow, nobody making decisions any more about when to move, where to eat, there is no-one to watch out for danger while you sleep or drink, no big fellows to play with to help reduce your stress”. Diane Smith

Given that at least one of the Victorian Kangaroo meat processing plants expects to import Kangaroo carcasses from New South Wales (the situation in South Australia is equally as bad as in New South Wales). In 2019the kill quotas for all species of Kangaroo exploited commercially (joeys killed not included) were 1,838,646 (special quota 185,928), in 2020 –2,146,615 (special quota 212,376) and in 2021 – 1,598,761 (special quota156,788). The New South Wales Government claims this averages out at around 15per cent of the population.

In 2020 the actual take against quota in NSW was again very low, instead of killing 2,358,991 Kangaroos (includes special quota) for commercial purposes, by mid-November of 2020 (no figures beyond then) the actual number killed was 380,298 (just 16 per cent of quota), of this number 271,121 were Eastern Grey Kangaroos. 32 per cent of the Kangaroos killed for commercial gain in New South Wales in the year were female. In 2020, it is estimated that 80,000 to 90,000 joeys died as a result of this exploitation.

The quotas were not met, as in previous years, because the Kangaroos did not exist.



In the early period of European settlement in Australia there were some 80 plus species / sub species in the broader Kangaroo family, most in Australia, and a few in Papua New Guinea and surrounding islands to the east and south of the Wallace Line. Of these species, 7 are now extinct (all from Australia), 7 are listed as critically endangered, 10 more species as endangered, a further 28 species / sub species are listed as threatened or vulnerable. That leaves 36 species, many of which are also in trouble and their status suppressed.

The so-called management of these animals in Australia and the disinformation surrounding it represents the very worst behaviour towards a group of wild animals in the world at a time of increasing endangerment and extinction of the world’s wildlife population. If we add up the many ways in which the main commercially exploited species of Kangaroo are killed and include the brutal killing of joeys, it is likely that more than 4 millionKangaroos are dying each year across the vast Australian Continent.

Populations are now in substantive decline and the pressures of development, climate change and commercial exploitation, combined with the devious behaviours that surround their destruction, will hasten their end.