Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Casting the First Stone

In the wake of Australia’s decision to step up its opposition to Japanese whaling by deploying the Oceanic Viking, supporters of whaling in Japan have posted a controversial video on the internet. It runs about ten minutes and aggressively promotes the idea that Australia is racist and hypocritical in its opposition to Japan’s whaling program. Most of what it contains is a distortion and an outlandish misrepresentation of the facts. There is one aspect however which is confronting.

The video suggests that we are hypocritical to oppose the whaling at the same time as allowing and condoning animal cruelty here in Australia. It illustrates this with video footage of dingos being killed and skinned, and kangaroos being shot and their joeys ripped from the pouch and bludgeoned to death. In one case it shows a man killing a joey by stomping on it, and a boy in the video also takes a turn at stomping the baby kangaroo.

All of this is disturbing to anyone who has concerns about animal welfare. Many would assume that these acts were not condoned by law. But apparently that assumption would be wrong. After many years of debate there is now a revised code of practice relating to the killing of kangaroos which has been released for public comment. The new code removes the previous recommendation to kill joeys by smashing their heads against a towbar. However the new recommendations are not much more pleasant.

There are other discrepancies in the code relating to differences in the standards imposed on professional and non-professional shooters. But the bottom line is that we do kill kangaroos and their joeys in ways that would sicken many people. Obviously, kangaroos are not whales, but the question that is being asked is “do we have our own back yard in order when we condemn the practices of other countries?”

If you want to see the proposed code of practice you can find it at www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/trade-use/invitecomment/draft-code-kangaroos.html

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