Friday 27 May 2016
Delivered at our 2016 Victorian Federal Election Launch by our candidate for Higgins Dr Eleonora Gullone. Learn more about Eleonora here.
Imagine a world where the only life forms on the planet other than humans are those we confine in zoos or those we breed to exploit for food and other human uses. What an impoverished and sad world it would be.
If we keep on the path we are on, such a world is not so far away.
The 2014 World Wide Fund for Nature’s Living Planet report shows that our ecological footprint requires 1.5 Earths to meet the demands we make of nature each year.
Industrialized countries such as ours are consuming resources at a much faster rate than the rest of the world. We are leaving little space on this planet for other species and we are in an era of unprecedented threat to biodiversity.
Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish declined 52% between 1970 and 2010.
Worldwide, vertebrate species populations are about half the size they were 40 years ago.
And Australia has the unenviable record of having the largest number of mammal extinctions of any country in the world, having driven 38% of all native mammals to extinction since colonial days.
Instead of learning from past mistakes, Australian governments have continued business as usual and have ignored indications that animals are being seriously threatened by human actions. For example, the Turnball government recently removed the protection for flying foxes, a keystone species listed as threatened.
Koalas considered an Australian flagship species now exist in fragmented colonies. We have driven 99.5% of koala populations to extinction in the last 230 years.
And then there is our most iconic species of all, the kangaroo – our national emblem who is emblazoned on our national airline – Qantas.
At the same time, the kangaroo is considered:
A pest for farmers
A recreational target for hunters
And the product of an unsustainable industry condoned and subsidized by the Australian government – the Kangaroo Industry.
In fact, the Kangaroo Industry is responsible for the largest wildlife massacre of land-based mammals that the world has ever seen.
Government and industry spin is that kangaroos exist in pest proportions and that they are damaging the ecosystem. The truth is that 10 species of kangaroos are already extinct and an additional 17 species are classified as endangered or vulnerable. This appalling record has been clocked up in just 200 years.
Over the 16 million years that kangaroos have been here they have developed a perfect fit with the harsh Australian environment. They don’t need as much water or energy (food) as cattle or sheep to survive. Their soft feet tread lightly on their native land unlike the damage caused by hooved animals.
The evolution of kangaroos is so finely tuned to the Australian environment that during periods of prolonged drought, female kangaroos’ reproduction is naturally suspended.
When they do reproduce, it is not unusual for a mother to have a joey in the pouch and another at foot. The young-at-foot who have left the pouch permanently remain heavily dependent on their mother for survival until they are weaned.
For males, mating rights are dependent on reaching their position in a male hierarchy. This is a group order that has evolved over millions of years ensuring that the strongest and the genetically fittest kangaroos, the alpha males, are those most likely to breed. This ensures that the gene line stays strong.
Because shooters favor the larger kangaroos, the prime targets are alpha males. The Industry is therefore singularly responsible for interfering with a process of evolution that has occurred over 16 million years.
The industry is also rife with cruelty.
An estimated 1% of the average 3 million adult kangaroos shot annually, are not killed. They escape with their injury to die a slow and painful death.
Kangaroo shooters also favor the larger females who are also more likely to be sexually mature and to have a joey in their pouch. Many will also have a joey at foot.
A conservative estimate is that a third of females shot have dependent young-at-foot, and many also have a joey in the pouch.
The current code of practice specifies that pouch young or young at foot must be destroyed by delivering a blow to the head. According to the code, “The blow must be delivered with force sufficient to crush the skull and destroy the brain.”
Most out-of-pouch joeys will immediately run away when their mother is shot. They are then left to die a slow death from starvation, dehydration or predation.
What is the Animal Justice Party Position on Wildlife Slaughter and the Kangaroo Industry?
Based on our values of Kindness, Non-Violence, Equality and Rationality, the Animal Justice Party approach to wildlife is that animals deserve respect for their own intrinsic worth, for who they are and not for how they can benefit us.
Since we as humans have the power to choose whether we protect or destroy animals, our position is that it is our duty to protect them from human harm and to provide for and maintain their basic needs.
We have a lot more to gain by accepting that animals are here on this planet with us, not for us. A better world for animals is also a better world for us.