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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Hunting kangaroos: is it a shoe sole or a delicacy?

Kangaroos are shot in Australia. And eaten. Not everyone thinks that’s good. Their consumption is better for the environment than that of cattle.

A herd of kangaroos among trees in a dry field

Kangaroos love community Photo: David Maurice Smith/Oculi/laif

BROKEN HILL taz | At night in the Australian outback, not far from the mining settlement of Broken Hill: The man in the Toyota pick-up rolls down the window and points his rifle. He shines a spotlight on a group of large red kangaroos. The animals, initially startled by the sudden disturbance, now stand still curiously. Then a shot. A male kangaroo falls to the ground.

The hunter drives to the animal and jumps out of the car. He heaves the lifeless body up and hangs it on two hooks on a rack on the car. One stab into the main artery with a sharp knife and the animal bleeds out. Then he cuts the body open. Liver, stomach, intestines slap on the floor. Finally he cuts off the kangaroo’s tail and finally its head. Or what’s left of it. The bullet completely destroyed the brain. Death was instant. “This is how it has to be, and no other,” the hunter explains to the reporter.

Meat production is never a pleasant business. Animals die; In most cases, they suffer beforehand, panic, and sense the end is approaching. Anyone who has ever spent a few hours in a slaughterhouse knows this. With this in mind, kangaroo hunting – or “harvesting” – as it is known in the Australian meat industry, is comparatively humane.

“The animal was grazing in its natural environment – ​​and a second later it was dead,” said a spokesman for the New South Wales National Park Authority. Both the hunting and processing of kangaroos are “more regulated than any other branch of the agricultural industry”. There are currently around 1,000 people dying in Australia 1.6 million kangaroos. Only four species are hunted, which are endemic and often even in large numbers. The shooting limits are recalculated every year. They depend on the animal population in a certain area.

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Not only hunting, but also the preparation of kangaroo meat needs to be learned. Because it is not as easy to prepare as, say, beef; the minimal fat content requires some effort. Each piece must be marinated in good olive oil before frying or grilling, ideally overnight, but at least for two hours.

To fry, heat a grill pan without any additional oil as high as possible. You should only leave the meat in it for a few minutes on each side and under no circumstances should you press or move it. In any case, the shorter the better, because a kangaroo rump steak or fillet can only be enjoyed medium rare or rare. The meat should then be braised in the oven for several minutes and then covered with aluminum foil and left to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Not always a clean deal

If you succeed, you can look forward to a good piece of meat, accompanied by steamed vegetables and perhaps a béarnaise sauce. Thanks to the prominent taste of kangaroo – it is reminiscent of game – pepper and salt are sufficient in many cases.

If you don’t succeed, you end up with a steak on your plate that has the consistency of the sole of a shoe. This is not the only reason why kangaroo meat is not particularly popular among Australians. Many older people also see it as meat for “poor people”, a relic from times when kangaroo was the only animal that many could afford. Others don’t want to eat their national animal. The majority of kangaroo meat in Australia ends up in dog food.

In addition, massive opposition to the commercial use of kangaroos has emerged in recent years. Animal protection organizations, especially in Europe, are up in arms and in several cases have managed to get companies to stop selling kangaroo products. In Great Britain, distributors withdrew kangaroo meat from their offerings following protests. In March, sporting goods manufacturers Nike and Puma announced that they would no longer make shoes from kangaroo leather. The pressure on Adidas to do the same is great.

The critics are not entirely wrong. Kangaroo hunting is not always a clean business. According to the Australian animal welfare association RSPCA, shots in the neck, chest or even deeper that are not immediately fatal occur regularly. The obligatory one Training of hunters In most states, however, the number of missed shots is now only around four percent – still too high, of course.

Animal rights activists are also bothered by the fact that mother animals with young are also shot. The orphaned “joeys”, as the babies are called in Australia, then have to be killed by hunters according to regulations because without the protection of their mothers they would immediately become victims of birds of prey and foxes.

Kangaroo meat makes more ecological sense

Research shows that non-professional hunters are responsible for most of this animal cruelty, the RSPCA said. The animal protection association demands that only specially licensed shooters be allowed to hunt kangaroos without exception. To date, virtually any landowner can legally take up arms on their own if they first fill out a form. However, he has to leave the dead animals behind.

This in turn is complete nonsense and a waste of valuable protein, say critics like paleontologist Mike Archer. Kangaroo meat contains practically no cholesterol – less than the best beef – and is therefore considered particularly healthy. It is also rich in important minerals and free of artificial chemicals.

Archer has been calling for years for Australia to eat more kangaroo meat instead of other animals because it also helps the environment. “Hard-hoofed European farm animals such as sheep and cattle damage the soil surface and accelerate the process of erosion.” Kangaroos, on the other hand, have adapted to the very specific conditions of the country “over millions of years,” says the scientist. Their soft feet guaranteed the integrity of the floor.

The marsupials also eat five times less grass than sheep and drink significantly less water than livestock – a crucial factor on the second driest continent on earth. “If we don’t learn to live with what this land gives us,” says paleontologist Archer, “then we will destroy it and perish in the process.”

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