Sitting down to watch “Kangaroo, A Love Hate Story” I had no idea, that this movie would move me so deeply. Vast landscapes, unique wildlife, The Great Barrier Reef etc.. I have always been fascinated by Australia. Little did I know that it had such a complicated relationship with one of its national symbols, the amazing kangaroos.
“Kangaroo, A Love Hate Story” is a documentary co-directed by Kate McIntye Clere And Mick McIntyre in which they set out to tell the story of the largest mass destruction of wildlife in the world.
If you are like me, you probably think that Australians love kangaroos unconditionally. After all, top companies and sports teams often use the marsupial in their logos. What I did not realise is that in spite of logos and tourist souvenirs, kangaroos are considered as pests. Hunting in the name of population control is central to the kangaroo meat industry with products destined for pet food and others for human consumption.
Flashback many years ago to a long awaited holiday down under where I was ready to embrace the culture, the food and the adventure. After a day spent in Uluru, we enjoyed an evening BBQ. On the menu were crocodile, emu and kangaroo. Back then I was a full-time carnivore, keen to try local delicacies. I will be completely honest, I did not think twice about it. It seemed obvious that Australians would eat kangaroos the same way that French people eat rabbits.
What I once thought to be a local delicacy, appears in fact to have been slaughtered (rather than hunted) in the most inhumane conditions. Going back home after the movie, I messaged one of my travel companions “did we really eat kangaroo?” . . my fears were confirmed … apparently yes 🙁 . I started feeling really cross with myself. I was also really disturbed as I knew this was not a problem contained at the other side of the world, having found kangaroo steaks at my local Lidl a few days before.
Watching “Kangaroo, A Love Hate Story” I realised that while I have never heard of it, the slaughter of kangaroos is nothing new, just a deep, dark well-kept Australian secret. Viva! has in fact been campaigning against it for the past 25 years. A by product of the kangaroo meat industry is of course kangaroo leather, popular for gloves and football boots.
Some good news is that as a result of Viva! campaign David Beckham famously swapped his kangaroo leather football boots for synthetic ones; while kangaroo meat on UK supermarket shelves will soon be history. However, it is still unclear how many other countries will follow suit.
It takes a lot of courage to make a movie like “Kangaroo, A Love Hate Story”. With a lot of business and political interests at stake for the kangaroo meat industry, the reception has ranged from lukewarm to hostile in Australia. Still, the documentary is now showing around the world and is gathering many well deserved awards around the globe.
“Kangaroo, A Love Hate Story” is not easy to watch. There is a lot of raw and difficult footage, from decapitated kangaroos to show that some shooters do not follow the code of practice for the humane shooting of kangaroos (i.e. brain shots), to joeys being crushed or bashed to death. We also learn about the “positives” of the kangaroo meat industry, one source even suggesting that the world could be fed on kangaroo meat ?!
The documentary does a good job of exposing the different interests at stake here: meat industry and government versus animal welfare activists. It is a complicated relationship with ramifications all around the world.
My relationship towards meat and animals has changed a lot since I started this blog. Still, had I known how kangaroos are hunted down and slaughtered, even my old self would have had many issues eating that BBQ years ago. You may choose to eat meat; that is clearly a personal choice. But we all have an ethical and moral responsibility to question where it comes from, how it was raised and how it was killed. The treatment of kangaroos is simply unacceptable.
This is truly a moving documentary that I would urge everyone to see.
Jeffrey Masson, author of When Elephants Weep, asks in the film, why Australia cannot promote kangaroo tourism as wildlife watching instead. I am hoping we can take the kids to Australia one day and do just that!
You can also register to organise your own screening (at home or your local cinema) here.