Decades-old regulations on the culling of Australia’s iconic hopping marsupial — the kangaroo — has the country divided. The story is detailed in the stunning new film, “Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story,” directed by Mick McIntyre and Kate McIntyre Clere. The filmmakers held a Los Angeles screening with Q+A last night at a packed Beverly Hills theater.

“Kangaroo” details the disturbing accounts of the largest terrestrial wildlife killing on earth. Although the iconic marsupial is synonymous with the continent, kangaroos have become big business. As some farmers see them as nuisances competing for resources the government grants special permits to farmers to kill as many as 1,000 kangaroos a year in order to keep them from impinging on farmland, resulting in millions of death per year. Shooters stalk the animals at night; they’re required to make the killing as quick and painless as possible by targeting the skull. But activists featured in the film have been collecting data and samples for more than a decade and say that’s not the case. According to their calculations, some 40 percent of kangaroos aren’t killed properly and many suffer needlessly. Some taking weeks to die after being shot.

Joeys, the pouch-bound baby kangaroos, are killed by being pulled from the pouches of their shot mothers and bludgeoned or stepped on; brutal footage is featured in the film. Recent changes to legislation have promised to protect female kangaroos, but this, the experts say, is in theory only; shooters continue to kill both male and female kangaroos as part of the nation’s “pest management” program. But experts say local populations have disappeared from parts of the country where they used to proliferate and that Australia could be pushing the animal toward extinction if industries are allowed to continue.

Further complicating the situation, the number of kangaroos in Australia isn’t being calculated accurately, according to the film’s experts. A government representative responsible for analyzing the data fumbled when trying to explain to the filmmakers how the algorithm produces its annual population numbers, which the government says is about 27-30 million, currently. The program is inherently flawed, the film claims, with controls being so unstable they more than double numbers in some cases. The higher the population numbers — factual or not — the more the government can allow the kangaroo industries to proliferate. And proliferate, they do: Meat, leather, pet food, and more, are all multi-million dollar industries for the continent with exports going to Europe, China, South Africa, the U.S. and other countries. 

Because the animals are all wild, standards and measures to regulate the health of the animals and the byproducts produced are severely lacking. The filmmakers tested more than two dozen samples of kangaroo meat and found high levels of salmonella and E. coli in 19 samples.

Some victories in the film include Russia’s ban on kangaroo meat, David Beckham shunning kangaroo leather shoes, and California upholding a ban on kangaroo.

With animal rights activists in government (Mark Pearson of the Animal Justice Party and Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council since 2015, is featured prominently in the film), kangaroos are getting more attention. But there’s much more to be done to protect the kangaroo, the filmmakers, say, it wouldn’t be Australia without them.

For more info on the film, visit kangaroothemovie.com.

 

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