Outrage as government resumes kangaroo harvest as bushfire rescues continue

As bushfires continue to burn across the country, the Victorian government has restarted its commercial kangaroo harvest.

A statement issued on the Agriculture Victoria website states that the “kangaroo harvesting program” has resumed in most zones.

Shooting in fire affected North East and Gippsland remains on hold while bushfire impact on eastern grey kangaroos is analysed, although applications can still be submitted.

The Victorian government suspended the cull amid a swell of global attention focussing on the plight of Australian wildlife.

Manfred Zabinskas from Five Freedoms Animal Rescue described the decision as “irresponsible”.

Wildlife carer Manfred Zabinskas holds a rescued kangaroo in his arms. His van with Five Freedoms Animal Rescue written on it is in the background.
Wildlife carer Manfred Zabinskas with a rescued kangaroo. Source: Five Freedoms Animal Rescue

“It’s a straight out money making venture to slaughter kangaroos to turn them into pet food,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

“They need to know what the populations of the kangaroos are to responsibly then decide on how many they’re allowed to kill.

“So with the loss of massive life because of the fires, it was my understanding that the harvest couldn’t go ahead because how do you work out a quota when you don’t know what your population is.

“We’ve lost hundreds of thousands of kangaroos, and they’re not going to get a handle on that for god knows how many months, perhaps even years.

Mr Zabinskas, who was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia at this year’s Australia Day awards for his work with wildlife, said he was “continuously appalled” by the Victorian government’s attitude to wildlife.

‘Commercial killing of our wildlife reflects terribly on Australia’

Lisa Chalk from Animals Australia condemned the announcement, noting that some retailers in Belgium, the world’s largest importer of kangaroo meat, recently announced they would no longer stock the product.

Split screen. Left - A joey cradled in a jacket drinks from a blue water bowl. Right - Three kangaroos in a burnt out forest
Manfred Zabinskas is treating kangaroos displaced or injured by bushfires. Source: Five Freedoms Animal Rescue

“With the bushfire season far from over, the community would expect the preservation and protection of our wildlife to be prioritised over the demands of shooters, especially with the full impact of fires on wildlife and ecosystems yet to be fully understood,” Ms Chalk told Yahoo News Australia.

“It is such a stark and distressing contrast to see volunteers working tirelessly to save the lives of some native animals while the government allows the commercial killing of others.

“This bushfire crisis has only reinforced the love and concern in the community for Australia’s unique wildlife.

“The cruel commercial killing of our wildlife reflects terribly on Australia at a time that the world is watching and grieving as precious habitats and unique native species are burning, some expected to be lost forever.”

Following publication of this article, a government spokesperson issued a statement to Yahoo News Australia.

“The Kangaroo Harvesting Program has resumed in areas not impacted by the recent bushfires,” it read.

“Due to the bushfires in the North East and Gippsland harvest zones, the program will remain on hold in these zones pending a further assessment of the impacts of the fires on eastern grey kangaroos in these areas.”

The author, Michael Dahlstrom, is a registered wildlife carer in NSW.

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