Viva!’s response to Adidas’s letter and the Environment Australia fact sheet
"Kangaroo leather is used by all sorts of manufacturers globally to make a wide range of products....."
This year alone, hunters are licensed to kill 3.8 million adult kangaroos to supply the kangaroo industries in what is the largest massacre of land animals on the planet. An email recently sent out by John Kelly, spokesperson for the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia, states: "This [soccer boot] industry is vital to the kangaroo industry. Without it underpinning kangaroo skin prices the entire industry would be at risk". With 70 per cent of the market for professional football boots, Adidas is the kangaroo industry’s largest customer - and therefore a driving force behind the massacre.
"Like the group Viva!, Adidas is opposed to kangaroos being killed in an inhumane or cruel manner."
It is a simple fact that when millions of kangaroos are being shot, instances of cruelty and inhumane killing are unavoidable.
The Australian Government, the kangaroo industry and Adidas all allege that kangaroos are shot "humanely" - their definition of this being a single shot to the brain. However, even the Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos (the guideline document which hunt<p>ers are supposed to follow) states: "No matter how carefully the shooter aims, some kangaroos will not be killed outright". The industry also claims to be self-regulating with regards to humane/inhumane killing, in so much as processing plants will reject the carcasses of kangaroos who have been shot in the body, not the head, thereby encouraging shooters to aim accurately and kill ‘humanely’. However, a report carried out by the Australian RSPCA found that approximately 100,000 kangaroos per year are not killed humanely, and even this is a conservative estimate as the figure is only based on carcasses arriving at processing plants where their skins are examined for bullet holes, no monitoring is actually done in the field. The RSPCA’s estimate does not take into account kangaroos who are shot in the body and whose bodies are left behind because they would be rejected at the processing plant, nor kangaroos who are only injured and left to die in the outback, of whom the RSPCA report also states: "Accurate figures on injury rates during shooting are extremely difficult to obtain".
Furthermore, perhaps the most upsetting acts of cruelty involve baby joeys - the ‘worthless’ byproducts of the kangaroo slaughter. A mother kangaroo will often have one joey in the pouch and another "at-foot". The Code of Practice recommends pouch joeys be killed either by decapitation with a sharp object or a heavy blow to the brain, but hunters have previously admitted to using joeys as footballs, hitting them with crowbars, smashing them against cars or simply leaving them on the ground to die. Viva! has video footage of one hunter dragging a joey from the pouch and stamping on his/her head. At-foot joeys, according to the Code, may also be shot, those who aren’t are left to hop off into the night and without their mothers to protect and feed them, will invariably die of starvation, predation, cold or neglect. The RSPCA report questions both the use of decapitation as a humane method of killing joeys, and also states "in general, the use of a heavy blow to the head is not considered a humane method of euthanasia for most species" and concludes that "the only solution which would avoid the potential of cruelty to pouch young would be to avoid shooting females altogether".
"This is why we insist that our suppliers fully comply with the Australian Government’s strict rules on kangaroo culling. These rules require those involved in culling to obtain a licence or permit to operate from the Government. These licensed operators must comply with a stringent code of practice which controls how they operate."
Unfortunately, the Australian government actively supports and promotes the kangaroo massacre because of the revenue it generates. Kangaroos do not need to be culled in the first place, they are an integral part of Australia’s fragile environment and should be valued as unique, sentient beings.
The "Code of Practice" - the ‘strict rules’ Adidas is referring to - is a guideline document, not a law and in order to obtain a licence, all hunters have to do is to read it, understand it, and pass a one day marksmanship course - although in Western Australia, the shooting test isn’t even compulsory.
Monitoring the industry is extremely difficult as the hunting takes place in the dead of night, miles away from civilisation and very few rangers are employed by the states to oversee the killing. For example in Queensland, the state with the highest level of commercial kangaroo killing -1,378,505 kangaroos killed commercially in 2000 - there were only six Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service staff with responsibility for monitoring the kangaroo harvest and overseeing the regulation of the industry! Quotes from the RSPCA report confirm that the monitoring of the industry is not exactly stringent: "From the discussions carried out during this survey, it appeared that law enforcement resources within State wildlife agencies had decreased since 1985, and several processors remarked about the lack of inspections and any follow up reports" and that "one processor pointed out that he had sent a tag from a body-shot kangaroo to the appropriate wildlife agency but had not heard of any result from this action." The fact that even kangaroo processors themselves criticise the lack of inspections, follow up reports and actions taken against those not complying with the Code makes Adidas’s claims flimsy to say the least!
"if our suppliers fail to comply with the law they will be refused an export permit for the leather by the Australian Government".
There are no laws protecting kangaroos from cruelty. What laws are in place relate to trade management, tagging the bodies of dead kangaroos and the export of the processed skins - not to animal welfare. In Western Australia, for example, there have been only a few prosecutions involving the kangaroo industry - two for supplying untagged carcasses to processors and two for processors accepting them.
VIVA'S RESPONSE TO ENVIRONMENT AUSTRALIA:
The assurances given in the fact sheet by Environment Australia are almost identical to those given by numerous other governments in defence of slaughtering whales, tigers, elephants, rhinos and a host of other animals who are now, or have been, on the endangered list. They have all proved meaningless and these creatures have been driven to the brink of extinction by rampant exploitation, supported by governments and their numerous ‘independent’ bodies. Fish are a classic example - the most studied, monitored, scientifically assessed and managed animals on earth. The result has been a catastrophe, resulting in the collapse of fish populations world wide.
Australia’s exploitation of kangaroos is no different and the quotas are set solely to meet commercial demand. Scientifically it is unjustifiable, which is why the industry and government refuse to discuss the latest studies and decline even to acknowledge their existence. Morally, it is abhorrent, which is why they also dismiss the cruelty and refuse to address the killing and abandonment of baby joeys, pretending instead that the killing is strictly controlled. There is almost no-one monitoring the killing in the outback as it happens and no laws have been introduced specifically to control shooters.
Australia has the worst record in the world for causing the extinction of wildlife - currently, in Australia alone there are 27 species listed as extinct, 33 as endangered, 51 as vulnerable, one as ‘conservation dependant’ and one as critically endangered.
Its environmental record is equally depressing, with vast tracts of the country turning to desert because of its insistence on grazing sheep and cattle - 160 million of them - on land which is entirely unsuited to these animals’ hard hooves. This developing catastrophe is well documented and beyond argument but still the government continues with policies of clear felling and encouragement of livestock farming. All its assurances and claims have to be seen in this light. Kangaroos, who have lived in harmony with the fragile environment for millions of years and are essential to its regeneration and ultimate survival, are the scapegoats.