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Letter: to Californian Lawmakers on the Kangaroo Trade

Below is my letter that was hand-delivered to each Californian Senator deliberating over whether to allow a vote on a bill that would allow unchecked import on products made from kangaroos. I was also one of 75 scientists, academics and public figures who signed an open letter to Californian lawmakers listing the growing concerns about the sustainability, cruelty and contamination risks this industrial-scale slaughter of our native wildlife presents.

Every Californian Senator heeded the call from around the world and did not allow a vote on the contentious bill that has also been surrounded by questions of impropriety by the Australian government, who paid an undeclared $143,000 towards the lobbying of Californian Senators to pass this bill without proper examination. These revelations were in reply to questions I asked earlier this year during February Senate Estimates.

10 September 2015

Senator Members
Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water
State Capitol, Room 4035
Sacramento, CA 95814
By email: Senate.Natural.Resources@senate.ca.gov

Dear Senator

I am writing to you in my capacity as a Senator of the Australian Federal Parliament and as the Animal Welfare Spokesperson of the Greens Party.

I wish to urge that you reinstate the Californian ban on the import of products made from kangaroos.

There are growing serious concerns by reputable scientists and academics about the status of kangaroos and the rigour of the survey estimates used to support kangaroo shooting and the commercial kangaroo industry.

Actual count data from government-funded surveys are showing increased local extinctions across Australian landscapes. However this is not reflected in the extrapolated survey estimates that the Australian government quotes to assert kangaroo abundance. The reality is that there are whole landscapes where kangaroos are no longer found.

This is borne out by the fact that there are now commercial shooting zones across Australian states that have suspended commercial shooting due to insufficient counts of kangaroos in those areas.

Meanwhile the industry continues to seek access to shoot remnant populations such as those in Victoria, where a ‘trial' of commercial kangaroo shooting has resulted in a license to export kangaroo skins being issued without any reference to surveys of kangaroo populations whatsoever.

It is of major concern to me that California may permanently lift its ban on imported kangaroo products. If this occurs it will lead to the resumption of unchecked unregulated shooting of kangaroos. Similar practices in the 1970s led to the Australian Government banning the export of kangaroo products and California banning their import.

You may be aware that the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia has hitherto shaped government policy and management frameworks for its own purpose. You may also be aware that the Australian Government and its federal Ministers' constitutional role in this issue is to help grow export markets, not the conservation of wildlife.

Australia and its commercial kangaroo industry have constructed the largest industrial-scale slaughter of wild-roaming terrestrial wildlife on the planet.

That these slow-growing species with low-reproductive rates and very high juvenile mortality are being shot beyond reproductive capacity; and that government actual count survey data is showing increasing and substantial local extinctions, should be of the greatest concern not only to the Californian Senate but to every thinking person. Increasing concerns to this effect must be heeded and the commercial market for products made from Australian wildlife should not be allowed to flourish.

I also highlight that recent research has proven the known cruelty of an industry that inflicts immense suffering on hundreds of thousands of shot kangaroos and their joeys. This issue is one that the Australian government and commercial industry attempts to sweep under the carpet. However there are findings that suggest the bludgeoning of joeys allowed under the Code of Practice in fact does not kill these young kangaroos outright. Some 800,000 joeys annually could be suffering a lingering death in this way.

An overwhelming majority of Australia's wildlife organisations condemn the commercial industry, as do growing numbers of scientists and academics from Australia and around the world.

I urge my fellow lawmakers to reinstate the ban on imported kangaroo products, and to reject the largest slaughter of terrestrial wildlife on this planet.

Kangaroos are wildlife at serious risk. They are not a replenishible crop to be ‘harvested'. The mass shooting of native wildlife as a commodity for a small group of exporters should not be supported by any thoughtful lawmaker, let alone in a bill disguised in a ‘gut and amend' form for the purpose of removing thoughtful oversight of a contentious and serious issue.

Yours sincerely

Senator Lee Rhiannon
Greens Senator and Animal Welfare spokesperson

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