Dingos are being slaughtered by hunters for money in a Victorian program that echoes colonial removal of much native wildlife in Australia. And people thought we are better. Here’s a media release with visual proof sent to Victorian parliamentarians by the Association for Conservation of Australian Dingoes Inc.
THE VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT recently announced a digitised, streamlined administrative process for ‘wild dog’ bounty applications and payment to hunters. These changes are clearly a cost saving device. The current bounty for so-called ‘wild dog’ scalps is $120.
AFCAD Inc. today slammed the refinement and continuation of the ‘wild dog’ bounty as a gross waste of public funds, as environmentally harmful, as unnecessary to the protection of farm stock, and as a policy that deceives the Victorian public. Rather than streamlining the administration of the bounty, it should be abandoned. Not to do so is serious misgovernance.
The ‘wild dog’ myth
As confirmed by recent ground-breaking genetic research, so-called ‘wild dogs’ in Victoria are dingoes, a native wildlife taxon. Incredibly, the bounty takes no account of the fact that dingoes and dingo dominant hybrids are considered Australia’s pre-eminent ecologists important for ecosystem health, and pure dingoes are listed as a threatened native species in Victoria under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.
2021 research found that:
…feral dogs have not established a self-sustaining population in the wild and that inter-breeding between dingoes and dogs may occur infrequently. Despite historical domestic dog introgression, the dingo population maintains a dingo dominant identity, even in southeastern Australia…
It is possible that widespread lethal control programs have increased the likelihood of dingo x dog hybridisation events and facilitating the spread of introgressed dog genes into the wider dingo population. (K. Cairns, M. Crowther, B. Nesbitt and M. Letnic, ‘The myth of wild dogs in Australia; are
there any out there?’, Australian Mammalogy, CSIRO Publishing, 2021.)
Against the best scientific advice, not only does the Victorian government persist in denying wildlife status to ecologically important dingo dominant hybrids, but, perversely, places a bounty on the head of both them and pure dingoes, even though the latter listed as a threatened native taxon in Victoria.
The ‘wild dog’ bounty is an invitation to fraud
Presently, recreational hunters are permitted to kill ecologically important dingo dominant hybrids (deemed ‘wild dogs’) over large areas of public estate beyond the specified areas of the state where the bounty applies. As a result, hunters can legally kill so-called ‘wild dogs’ (in reality including pure dingoes listed as threatened wildlife) in areas where the bounty does not apply, but they can then nevertheless easily and fraudulently present such scalps for bounty collection. The streamlining of the bounty arrangements will simply further facilitate such abuse.
Farm stock losses to predation exaggerated
Stock losses to dingo predation have been consistently exaggerated by the Victorian government and state Agriculture authorities, as well as extremists within the farming lobby (reflecting a backward colonial mindset).
Yet, official Victorian government stock loss data (obtained by AFCAD Inc. through Freedom of Information legislation) show that stock loss rates to ’wild dog’ predation in Victoria are tiny and have been for a long time. Departmental statements fail to inform the public (and perhaps even the Environment and Agriculture Ministers) that the absolute and relative stock losses, as a share of the Victorian sheep flock, from alleged ‘wild dog’ predation have remained at a very low level for 20 years.
In broad terms, sheep losses per million of the Victorian sheep flock over the past 20 years have varied within a range of between 100 and 200 sheep lost per million sheep. In absolute and relative terms, the losses are negligible. The bounty is simply unjustified in terms of farm stock protection and must be condemned for the public deception it relies upon and the ecological damage it incurs.
Environmentally destructive hunting of dingoes condoned by Victorian government
Left: Lily D’ Ambrosio – Victorian Minister for the Environment
Right: Mary Anne Thomas – Minister for Agriculture
The Victorian Environment and Agriculture ministers must now acknowledge and take responsibility for the gross policy inconsistencies surrounding the misidentification of dingoes as ‘wild dogs’, and for the environmental damage incurred within Victorian ecosystems through the ‘wild dog’ bounty. The buck stops with them.
A particularly disturbing aspect of the perpetuation of the ‘wild dog’ bounty is that it encourages recreational hunters to kill dingoes in the mistaken belief that they are helping to remove an exotic invasive pest. They are in fact killing Victoria’s native apex predator and harming Victorian ecosystems. The Victorian government has been repeatedly appealed to by leading environmental scientists about the environmental harm incurred by current policy.
The images below (and at top) are of dingoes killed in Victoria by hunters. Bear in mind that dingoes are listed as a threatened native species in Victoria. The contradiction is shameful and incompetent.
The Victorian government must:
Immediately discontinue the ‘wild dog’ bounty;
Immediately discontinue use of the term ‘wild dog’ as ecologically meaningless and
recognise dingo dominant hybrids as wildlife
Remove the existing wildlife unprotection order for dingoes
Ban all hunting of dingoes in Victoria
Send a clear message to hunters and hunting organisations that dingoes are protected wildlife and impose significant penalties for the hunting and killing of dingoes.
The Ministers for the Environment and Agriculture can no longer claim ignorance on this issue.
AFCAD is an incorporated association registered in the state of Victoria. Its purposes are the ‘Preservation and Conservation of Australian Dingoes and its habitat and ecosystems’ and its objectives include:
‘Encourage and facilitate legislative reform to ensure the protection and survival of the dingo in the wild’; ‘Encourage and facilitate government policy change to ensure the protection and survival of the dingo in the wild’; and ‘Inform and educate the public and government about the cultural, ecological and historical significance of the dingo and its conservation’
The sound of magpies warbling in the morning is synonymous with life in Australia, but Perth researchers are predicting a bleak future for the beloved species.
Research conducted by associate professor Amanda Ridley and her team at the University of Western Australia has found that very hot weather is affecting the birds” ability to survive, reproduce and raise their chicks.
Dr Ridley, who has been collecting data on magpies since 2013, said heatwaves had devastated the birds and their babies over the past three summers.
“During that very bad heatwave (in 2019–2020), which caused terrible bushfires all across Australia, we had zero reproductive success,” Dr Ridley said.
ABOVE: Two magpies from Amanda Ridley’s research group warbling at the University of Western Australia recently. (ABC Radio Perth: Alicia Bridges)
“All the babies that were alive during that heatwave died before it ended.
“That’s a one-off event but if this happens more frequently, which is predicted to happen under climate change, and we’re already seeing it happen in Perth … this could cause a catastrophic decline.”
The Western Australian Climate Projections summary, a document prepared by the state government, predicts the number of very hot days over 35 degrees Celsius in WA’s South West will increase from 28 to 36 by 2030, under an “intermediate emissions scenario”.
By 2090, the number of days would increase to 63.
Dr Ridley and her team, the Western Magpie Research Project, work with multiple groups of wild but tame birds across Perth.
She said the more recent heatwave over the 2021 holiday period had also affected the birds.
The team‘s research has found that the magpies suffer cognitive decline when the temperature reaches around 32 to 33°C.
They experience heat stress which hinders their ability to forage for food and feed their babies.
Returning Officer: Ian Higgins Minutes: Carmen Ryan Chair: Maria Taylor
2. Welcome by the Chair.
Attendees: Peter Hylands, Jan Heald, Cienwen Hickey, Maria Taylor, Ian Higgins, and Carmen Ryan.
3. Confirmation of the Minutes of the previous AGM (2020).
The motion was put to the meeting that the Minutes for the 2020 AWPC AGM be accepted.
Moved by Jan Heald.
Seconded by Peter Hylands.
4. Adoption of the 2021 Treasurer Report and Financial Statement.
Maria Taylor presented the report which she prefaced by stating that it was similar to the 2020 treasurer’s report in reflecting little activity as fund-raising was curtailed during the period of COVID lockdowns. She acknowledged committee members and others who donated their time and professional expertise to the work of the organisation as unpaid, in-kind support for the AWPC’s functions Treasurer’s report: Attachment A. [AWPC members can request a copy via email@example.com]
5. Confirm or vary the amounts of the annual membership fee.
The meeting agreed that the current membership fees remain unchanged in 2022.
6. Special resolution to change the rules of the Australian Wildlife Protection Council (Victoria) Incorporated.
The secretary outlined the proposed changes and reasons for the changes. Essentially the AWPC Rules document held by Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) had not been subjected to updates since 1986 when it was lodged as a scanned copy. These updates reflect the need to engage with digital platforms and to improve access by the public wanting to join the AWPC. The changes were detailed in a ‘special resolution’ paper and the process for notifying the membership was followed under the rules of CAV. Attachment B. [HERE]
Discussion included the concern that older potential members may still need a paper-based application, how to determine the suitability of a new member and the need for any proxy voting form to be witnessed. The absence of a vice president’s position under current AWPC’s Rules was also discussed, and it was the view of two members present that this position should be reinstituted.
The Chair ruled that the vice president’s position be taken on notice for a future committee meeting.
Acceptance of changes to AWPC’s Rules moved by Cienwen Hickey
Seconded by Peter Hylands.
7. President’s report.
Peter Hylands acknowledged the work of committee members and thanked everyone for their contributions. He spoke on items from his report and below is a summary of the activities undertaken by the AWPC in 2021. For the full report refer to the President’s Report at Attachment C. [HERE]
The AWPC committee and AWPC members have engaged in the following activities in support of Australian wildlife:
education and advocacy including submissions to politicians, particularly in Victoria and in the ACT and federally about the escalating killing of kangaroos, biodiversity loss and policy, the plight of Australian birdlife, particularly duck shooting;
highlighting the plight of wildlife carers;
campaigns from NSW focusing on the use of native wildlife as petfood and co-existing with wildlife;
supporting state-based wildlife groups whether on behalf of kangaroo species including support with content for Kangaroos Alive on World Kangaroo Day;
providing information to community wildlife groups; and
liaison and support for international wildlife campaigns and organisations such as the Centre for Humane Economy in the United States.
Submissions by the AWPC have been made to government inquiries and the findings from the NSW Kangaroo Inquiry were shocking, as was the subsequent signing off of the kangaroo management plan for NSW by its environment minister, Matt Kean. Thirty percent of kangaroos killed for commercial gain in NSW and Victoria are female kangaroos, despite ongoing claims females are not targeted. Females are now shot in large numbers because the commercial shooters have now killed so many kangaroos and so seriously depleted male kangaroo populations, they need to kill more and more females to keep their activities going. Australian mammals and birdlife are targets (see report). In Victoria, one of many concerns, is the mass killing of Australian wildlife in State and National Parks.
Unanimous support by the meeting to circulate the report.
8. All current committee of management positions declared vacant and election of new members: President, Secretary, Treasurer, and ordinary committee members.
All positions were declared vacant by the Returning Officer Ian Higgins and nominees were re-elected unopposed:
President: Peter Hylands Treasurer: Maria Taylor Secretary: Carmen Ryan.
Other positions: Committee member: Cienwen Hickey (elected unopposed). New Committee member position: Ro Mudyin Godwin. Nominated by Cienwen Hickey and seconded by Peter Hylands.
Why do people expect to feed their dogs or cats on Australian wildlife, specifically kangaroo? Are they informed consumers? … aware of the unavoidable cruelty that goes with this trade and of the possible health risks to humans or pets that comes with eating bushmeat? Here are some realities that consumers might want to weigh up.
KANGAROO, IS THE only Australian native animal hunted specifically for the petfood trade. Most meat in petfood comes from offcuts of domesticated animals bred and killed for human consumption. (Remember the shock and revulsion on hearing of racehorses taken to the knackery.)
Australia’s national icon is hunted down in most cases by poorly-paid shooters with few employment choices, who slaughter dozens or hundreds a night at pennies-a-carcass on country properties and increasingly in the wildlife’s last refuges, national parks and reserves. To call this trade or it’s non-commercial version “humane” — as those who enable it like to tell the city folk — is just a self-serving fraud. No independent observers monitor the hunt, the motorised pursuit of terrified kangaroo families, the mis-shots and injuries, with animals at times lingering injured for days; no one helps the totally lost mother-dependent joeys.
No one watches what happens next either. Partly butchered carcasses are hung in the trays of utes in all temperatures for a short or long trip to a chiller in a paddock, where basic sanitation has been questioned in some instances. Eventually the bodies are processed in a town — minced and stuffed into petfood cans, or sometimes butchered for overseas human consumption while the skins are exported as shoe leather.
Victoria and South Australia returning to petfood trade
Victoria, where kangaroo species were recovering after a moratorium on the commercial hunt starting in the 1980s, is now back in business with the kangaroo petfood trade enjoying the state government’s blessing along with applause from some farmers. The advantage of petfood is that any species, size, age or condition animal may do.
The kangaroo ‘industry’ has switched focus to southern Australia from Queensland and NSW whose killing fields — after decades of commercial slaughter, drought, fire, flood, disease and landholder killing — have population counts flashing red warning signs underscored by poor “harvests” for years now.
The South Australian government, where the iconic Red kangaroo has recovered to an extent, is working on a new removal/ ‘management’ plan. Reports are coming through of wallabies going into the mix too. Half-burned Kangaroo Island is not exempt from these plans we hear.
Quite apart from the field hygiene conditions, kangaroos, being wild animals, harbour pathogens. Country people don’t often eat kangaroo, citing ‘worms’.
The question of what consumers know arose with a recent ABC Rural story reporting on Victorian pet-owners, grief-stricken at the death of their dogs who were fed contaminated petfood linked to a Gippsland knackery. A quoted pet-owner thought they were feeding ‘pure kangaroo.’
These are not the first dogs to die in a widening petfood scandal. The trail has led to outback supplies. Reportedly the toxic content came via cattle and horse carcasses allegedly mixed with kangaroo.
Regulate the petfood industry
Pet owners are calling for any kind of regulation of the petfood industry. That is long overdue on health and welfare grounds. At the Bulletin we are animal lovers and dog companions and our hearts go out to the bereaved dog owners caught up in this disaster.
Nevertheless, the question remains: how did we and our governments come to consider as ‘normal’ slaughtering our national emblem for petfood, and export sausages and leather?
How is this different from the extensive slaughter of koalas (and other marsupials) for skins to export up until the early 20th century? The fate of the koala is now plain to see.
The disrespect shown to Australia’s national symbol and some other wildlife confuses overseas visitors. Their tourist list is often topped by a wish to see ‘Skippy’ in the flesh. What they don’t know is that all species of kangaroo, that includes wallabies, have (since colonial settlement) been removed from their habitat, killed on behalf of a European model of stock grazing that was to be grafted onto a misunderstood land.
A bounty era of removal was followed by the commercial trade in body parts, starting with skins for export. It grew profitable and developed its own momentum. As readers of the Bulletin know the same attitude of disrespect and killing is a baffling annual event on the nature reserves of Canberra the national capital. City politicians and bureaucrats cite ‘scientific research’. This version of science now gives cover to national park killings elsewhere.
Politician and media narratives describe the carnage as an essential Australian on- farm and export business. Australian pet owners and meat eaters therefore have had little encouragement to become informed consumers of their national icon.
Time indeed for review of bushmeat sold for human and pet consumption, for regulation as needed, and, most important, a call for renewed respect and co-existence extended to our natural world and to our unique wildlife.
More of the factual background to this editorial can be found and fully explored in Maria Taylor’s new documentary book Injustice, hidden in plain sight the war on Australian nature… > More at www.mariataylor.com.au
TWO DOG FOODS GUARANTEED NOT TO CONTAIN KANGAROO
While preparing this September issue of The District Bulletin, two dog food sources crossed our horizon guaranteed not to contain kangaroo and promising good nutrition too. We have made no independent examination of these food products and are not therefore directly recommending them. But they sound very promising as alternatives or additions in the marketplace so we leave it to you to check out if you want to. And the doggie yogurt press release came with not one but two cute photos that we couldn’t resist sharing below.
Gully Road Australian-grown products for dogs. Small business mail order dog-food purveyor based in Victoria with an ethical value frame. See it here.
Available early September and exclusively sold in the chilled pet food section at Woolworths supermarkets, Daily Dollop yogurt is a healthy option to introduce into dogs’ diets and can serve as an addition to daily meals, an easy snack or as a mix-in to spice up dry food.
AWPC committee member Maria Taylor had this letter published in the Canberra Times on 18 July 2021 after another, yearly, brutal hunt against kangaroo families in the national capital. We wonder how it plays to the international community.
EVERY MAY MOTHER’S DAY or thereabouts, Canberra politicians, Labor, Green and Liberal, spoil the season by giving thumbs up to what they like to portray as an unremarkable slaughter of our national emblem in the nation’s capital.
On public nature reserves, this involves shooting kangaroo families — mums and males — bashing pouch joeys to death, and bulldozing all their bodies into pits. Lost and bewildered older joeys flee, jump in front of cars or end at the mercy of dogs. Neighbouring residents can be traumatised by the carnage that continues every night for months.
Already signed is a deal to continue the killing for another five years, with militarised contractors hunting in the suburbs for surviving animals. Unless it’s stopped by voters. It costs the public purse close to a million dollars annually. The real reason why this is happening? That’s still anyone’s guess.
But Canberra nature park managers or politicians offer residents a revolving list of ‘facts’ on why the killing must happen. Their assertions are amplified by the local media. No questions asked. Few dissenting voices get a platform and if they are mentioned they are labelled ‘protesters’, ‘activists’, ‘animal rights advocates’ (heaven forbid) — anything other than just plain concerned citizens of Australia.
I have watched this annual ritual for the past decade and sadly reported on it, and recently researched and wrote a book on the history, culture and legacy of Australia’s wildlife killing habits www.mariataylor.com.au. Canberrans are subject to the same narrative about kangaroos as the rest of the country. We’re all encouraged to agree and shrug. Elsewhere when a group is demonised prior to killing, it’s called propaganda.
We must all think alike
What we have is a dominant narrative on how to think about kangaroos. How to think is sold to the public in lockstep by economic interests (commercial kangaroo processors, grazier and farming lobbies) working with politicians and government power. Their perspective is supported or supplied by some applied ecologists and ‘pest’ management specialists, mostly taxpayer funded. What they all say is uncritically reported in most Australian media.
You can hear this narrative any day of the week and it is on the upswing at the moment with a move in the United States Congress to ban the import of Australian kangaroo skin and meat. The EU is also being asked to consider bans. This pushback is portrayed by Australian officials and mainstream media outlets as an assault on a must-have export industry. The word ‘treasonous’ has been used.
The remaining large kangaroos are now Australia’s most persecuted indigenous animal with an unchanging storyline to justify the extensive bloodshed.
The world loves Skippy the bush kangaroo and he or she draws tourists by the planeload. This unique marsupial holds up one half of our national coat of arms —along with the equally unique emu — also a victim of mass persecution since settlement.
Yet at home, we became a culture of silence and conformity that treats the kangaroo as either a pest or a product.
We lead the world
The treatment of native wildlife since colonial times has morphed in the past 70 years into the world’s biggest on-land wildlife slaughter of kangaroos, for their skins and meat and just for removal. Almost no Australians appear to know this. The much beloved koala — now on the brink of regional extinctions — suffered a similar savage slaughter for its fur coat up until the mid-1920s and has never recovered.
The ACT may claim that its killing is somehow better because it is non-commercial, but the cull is very much part of that post-colonial value tradition.
What are those values? Disrespect and disinterest in understanding the contributions of native grazers in balanced ecosystems. And flat-out demonisation of any native animal that bothers agricultural businesses or sometimes other commercial interests, or ACT motorists. That starts with grazing kangaroos and wallabies, but also targets emus, wombats, dingos, eagles, other birds. Culturally, there is a direct line of thinking from colonial times.
This thinking has become so embedded in the narrative that any claims about ‘too many’, and that our export nation and graziers need kangaroos to be killed, just gets an automatic nod from media organisations starting with the national broadcaster and seen throughout Australia’s highly-concentrated private press. Overseas visitors are amazed at the disrespect, while most Australians stay silent.
The Canberra cull is related in cultural understanding and dog whistling ‘pest’ and ‘too many’.
Now Canberra’s advising ecologists have pivoted to another compelling narrative that deflects enquiries: the story now is that all of ‘biodiversity’, which suddenly does not include kangaroos, benefits from the annual slaughter. Females with pouch-joeys and dependent young can be killed more freely under this framework in the ACT’s code of practice.
PR relies on scientists
This culture is across Australia — the commercial kangaroo industry has a very active PR operation and often relies on supporting voices that say ‘trust us, we’re scientists”. ACT narratives have relied on similar claims of scientific insight.
Missing: reports about the role of all kangaroo species in their ecosystems
What’s missing? Any reporting about the benefits of coexistence and what that might look like.
Missing is any reporting on research about the role of all kangaroo species in their ecosystems — what do they contribute to healthy grassy woodlands? They co-evolved with those habitats. Equally missing are voices that tell us what kangaroos and other wildlife could contribute to Australia, to Canberra and to farm economies through tourism and related spending.
Our native wildlife is much more valuable alive than dead. A new win-win narrative must highlight respect, ecological understanding and a decision to share our land.