Voice of Real Australia: Chuck a roo on the barbie

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A roo shooter's vehicle loaded up after a night's work. Picture: Supplied

A roo shooter's vehicle loaded up after a night's work. Picture: Supplied

I never knew that the kangaroo industry was controversial in Australia before I started working on this week's Voice of Real Australia podcast episode.

I see kangaroos almost every day, up on the reserve near my house in Canberra. They've grown inured to the presence of humans, and only really hop away if you go closer than a few metres.

They're on the golf course up the road, grazing on the manicured fairways, and on the side of highways, dead.

Roos are so ubiquitous it never occurred to me that killing them for food and leather could be controversial.

The roo industry markets itself as a green, sustainable, healthy alternative to red meats such as lamb or beef. Kangaroos drink far less water, produce far less greenhouse gases, and their soft, padded feet disturb the landscape far less than animals with hooves, too.

Some scientists argue if we're going to save the planet we need to embrace the kangaroo as a regular part of our diet. At the moment, farmers aren't interested because kangaroos aren't worth any money to them. They actually cost farmers money -- eating crops or competing with livestock for water and grass.

As a result millions are culled each year, their carcasses left to rot in paddocks around the country. Their numbers are so poorly managed we're in a situation where populations explode in wet years, then die off in large numbers during drought.

It's an awful place in which our national animal finds itself. And, as I said, it's hugely controversial.

None of the farmers I talked to mind a few roos jumping around the back paddock, but all of them said their numbers have to be managed, and a farmer's knowledge of his or her land is pretty persuasive.

But some people disagree entirely -- and argue that roos don't compete for food and water with livestock and that we could be in danger of seeing local populations go extinct.

The debate surrounding kangaroo management can be so emotionally charged it's hard to see how the industry charts its way forward. In the meantime and until we work out how many roos we can have in the landscape and what we want to do with them, it's the kangaroo that will suffer.

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