New documentary exposes Australia’s dirty secret – Kangaroos killed by the millions each year

By on January 19, 2018 with 0 Comments

The grisly and grainy images that open the jarring documentary “Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story” are not the most difficult images you’ll ever see in a feature film about animals’ suffering and abuse. That’s not because the callousness evidenced in the film is any less intense than the kind of cruelty on display in “The Cove” or, as we saw in “Trophy” on CNN the other night, or because it’s any easier to swallow the killing of kangaroos than the misery that animals endure on factory farms as shown in “Forks Over Knives.” It’s because the killing of kangaroos occurs at night. In the cloak of darkness in the remote, rural desert lands of Australia, and it’s hard to see what kind of mayhem is directed at kangaroos in these outposts.

Cruelty depends on our disassociation from it and the concealment of it by the perpetrators. When it’s wrapped in darkness, hidden behind a laboratory wall or a factory farm warehouse, it’s tougher to expose and easier to avoid or forget about in the first place.

But animal-oriented documentaries are throwing back the curtain on so many forms of abuse, and gracefully produced, fast-moving “Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story” may do for kangaroos what “Blackfish” did for orcas or “At the Fork, Inc.” did for animals used in industrial agriculture. They tell the detailed stories we’ve never heard, and demand that we ask tougher questions about our conduct and the history of our exploitation of animals.

The Australians’ relationship with kangaroos is as confusing and contradictory a relationship as any people have with any species. Kangaroos are the symbol of Australia and a national icon there—the most recognized brand ambassador of any nation, after Lady Liberty in New York harbor or France’s Marianne. While there are plenty of advocates for kangaroos in Australia, the public is divided on their treatment. There are also plenty of haters, and they are doing a number on the biggest of the marsupials.

Most Americans and other fans of the culture and countryside of Australia are unaware that nationals there kill three million adult kangaroos and hundreds of thousands of joeys every year, partly as an attempt at “pest control” but also to feed the commercial kangaroo industry.

In an approach that includes a range of perspectives, but amplifies the voices of those who call out ruthless tactics and practices when they see them, “Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story,” explains the decades-long campaign by farmers and the commercial kangaroo industry—working often in tandem with the Australian government—to demonize these creatures and to create a sort of collective detachment that enables nations to do terrible things to a species. The talented directors, Kate McIntyre Clere and Mick McIntyre, point out that these policies and practices don’t just produce immense cruelty, but they are driving down the numbers of dozens of the 70 or so species in the kangaroo family.

Although the industry claims that killing is a necessary evil, in order to preserve forage in an arid nation with millions of domesticated sheep, the documentarians show a different reality—an inhumane, unsustainable massacre, largely unknown to millions who consider the kangaroos as a startlingly original species worth admiring and protecting.

The Australian National Code of Practice dictates that hunters should shoot kangaroos through the brain to ensure immediate death, but poor nighttime visibility results in a crapshoot when it comes to bullet placement. There seems to be as much crippling as killing. When pregnant and nursing kangaroos are killed, their joeys are killed in savage ways—the collateral damage simply discarded and left to die from exposure to the elements.

Kangaroo products are traded internationally in the form of leather, soccer cleats, meat for human consumption, and pet food. There are now many synthetic alternatives to kangaroo leather, so the rationale of footwear freedom hardly commands our attention. Nike, Adidas, and so many other companies have made the switch to human-made fabrics for our athletic adventures.

While you won’t run into kangaroo meat on many menus, it has its consumer following. But with the animals butchered and dressed in the field, exposed to the dust and heat of punishing outback, foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and E. coli find ready carcasses, turning eating the meat into a gastro-intestinal adventure. Even Russia, not known as tremendously forward-thinking of food safety, has banned kangaroo meat as a food safety hedge.

The continent wide population of kangaroos dropped by more than 20 million between 2001 and 2010—from an estimated 57 million to perhaps 34 million. The killing has continued unabated in recent years, and the population is suffering more with the onslaught.

In 2015, despite a strong-armed attempt by the government of Australia and the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia—which included violations of California’s lobbying disclosure laws—The HSUS successfully thwarted efforts in the legislature to keep California’s trade in kangaroo products open. We anticipate there will be continued attempts to revive this trade but major athletic shoe manufacturers and other end-product consumers are moving on and finding alternatives.

“Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story” opens in theaters today, and must be the wake-up call we need to reverse mass killing of these beautiful and unique animals. Watch the trailer for the movie, and check out the initial screenings to attend one near you.

HSUS sues so that government can get it right on right whales

By on January 18, 2018 with 0 Comments
HSUS sues so that government can get it right on right whales

Today, The HSUS, along with our partners at the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife, filed a legal complaint against the federal government for failing to protect North Atlantic right whales from painful and deadly entanglement in fishing gear. There are only about 450 North Atlantic right whales left, which makes these 50-foot-long . . . 

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USDA ponders disastrous plan to allow self‑policing by licensed breeders, zoos, and researchers

By on January 17, 2018 with 1 Comment
USDA ponders disastrous plan to allow self‑policing by licensed breeders, zoos, and researchers

After purging thousands of Animal Welfare Act inspection reports and violation notices that used to be available to the public and were searchable online, the political operatives who took over at the U.S. Department of Agriculture a year ago say they now want to turn over federally funded inspections of puppy mills, roadside zoos, and . . . 

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Steady progress against puppy mills — 250 localities now ban sales of cats and dogs at pet stores

By on January 16, 2018 with 0 Comments
Steady progress against puppy mills — 250 localities now ban sales of cats and dogs at pet stores

Last week, the city of Poulsbo, Washington, became the 250th locality in the United States to enact a law prohibiting the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores, unless the animals are sourced from shelters or rescues. Cities, towns, and counties of all sizes and demographics are registering their concerns about the national epidemic . . . 

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Breaking news: HSUS sues USDA for brazen maneuver to hurt farmers and nix federal farm animal welfare rule

By on January 12, 2018 with 78 Comments
Breaking news: HSUS sues USDA for brazen maneuver to hurt farmers and nix federal farm animal welfare rule

Today, The HSUS is suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture for working to scuttle the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule – one of the most important rules to ever come out of a federal agency, affecting the well-being of tens of millions of animals each year. The USDA finalized the rule in January 2017, . . . 

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Bare black bear gets an incredible second chance at HSUS animal care center

By on January 10, 2018 with 6 Comments
Bare black bear gets an incredible second chance at HSUS animal care center

We take in thousands of animals at our wildlife rehabilitation facilities each year, but to me, the creature we took in a few weeks ago looked like no one who’d ever passed through our gates. At the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in San Diego County, California — one of the direct-care centers directly affiliated . . . 

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New Jersey lawmakers say ‘no’ to wild animal acts in circuses

By on January 9, 2018 with 2 Comments
New Jersey lawmakers say ‘no’ to wild animal acts in circuses

The movement to end the use of wild animals in circuses secured its biggest win yet, with New Jersey lawmakers, in the waning days of their lame duck session, voting nearly unanimously yesterday to ban almost all wild animal acts in the Garden State. Assemblyman Raj Mukherji and Sen. Raymond Lesniak sponsored the bill that . . . 

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Smithfield makes more progress on gestation-crate-free pledge

By on January 8, 2018 with 9 Comments
Smithfield makes more progress on gestation-crate-free pledge

Today, the world’s largest pig producer, Smithfield Foods, announced more progress in its movement away from confining mother pigs in tiny gestation crates, further acknowledging that animals built to move ought to be allowed to move. As a matter of historical import, our quest to rid the industry of these inhumane contraptions got an enormous . . . 

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HSUS’s successful lawsuit to protect Great Lakes wolves may hold key to restoring protections for Yellowstone-area grizzlies

By on January 5, 2018 with 2 Comments
HSUS’s successful lawsuit to protect Great Lakes wolves may hold key to restoring protections for Yellowstone-area grizzlies

Thanks to skillful work that exposed the government’s shoddy science and its inattention to the legal standards of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), we’ve been able to maintain federal protections for wolves in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin by winning two key cases in a U.S. District Court and a federal appeals courts. One effect . . . 

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Biting cold an extraordinary threat to all animals

By on January 4, 2018 with 2 Comments
Biting cold an extraordinary threat to all animals

With weather systems delivering punishingly low temperatures – along with ice, snow, and wind – deaths from the cold cycle are mounting, including animal victims. Heartbreaking images on social media, of dogs left outside and frozen, are almost too much to bear. Yesterday, People.com reported a gut-wrenching story of a black lab mix in Illinois . . . 

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