Aussie kangaroo cull draws human shields

Animal rights activists declared themselves human shields on Saturday and vowed to prevent authorities from killing kangaroos that have overrun a Canberra military base.

Last week, the Australian government enraged animal lovers by approving the killing of about 400 kangaroos at risk of death from starvation.

Contractors have been engaged to shoot the kangaroos with tranquillising darts and then kill them with lethal injections.

”We’re all determined to see that the kangaroos aren’t killed,” protest organiser Pat O’Brien said. ”There’s a lot of anger in a lot of people about this, and that’s what it will come to — we will stand between the kangaroo and the darts if necessary.”

O’Brien, president of the Wildlife Protection Association of Australia, urged authorities to go back to their original plan, which was to round up the animals and shift them to an area where there is enough food for them.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett, the former Midnight Oil singer, said he was unmoved by threats from London-based animal welfare group Viva! to organise an international boycott of Australian goods and services if the cull goes ahead.

”When there are significant imbalances … then programmes like this, humanely and properly administered, are sometimes necessary,” Garrett said.

The row over the kangaroos has rumbled on for years, with the military first proposing to shoot the kangaroos, then relocate them, and now reverting to the original plan — which is the preference of animal rights organisation the RSPCA.

RSPCA Canberra spokesperson Michael Linke told Australian news agency AAP that the most humane solution was shooting the kangaroos because relocating them would be too traumatic. ”We can’t at this stage endorse a translocation process,” he said.

Kangaroos are superabundant, with the federal government issuing permits that allow hunters to kill upwards of five million a year. The meat mostly ends up as pet food.

The kangaroo population varies from 25-million to 80-million, depending on whether the continent is in drought or not. There are more kangaroos now than when white colonists arrived in 1788. — Sapa-dpa

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