Kangaroos – The 100 Days Project: Day 79 [22]

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Unknown Soldiers

Photo: collection of the Australian War Memorials

My partner and I once drove all the way from Sydney to Broken Hill, stopping every 20 kilometres or so to hammer in, beside the road, a cross commemorating roadkill. Once there we rested for two days and then drove back. As far as we could tell, 50 of our 52 crosses had already been removed, presumably by the same council workers who remove the roadkill from the highway. All of the flower-bedecked roadside crosses commemorating human deaths on the highway were still in place. I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if the council workers – or whoever it was that removed them – thought that our crosses, commemorating non-human animals, were somehow disrespectful to the human victims of that highway.

 

It’s hard to commemorate animals. Enter their realm and a lot of things go askew, get turned on their head. Even this post. It was my intention, until just minutes ago, to commence a piece commemorating the kangaroos taken by Australian troops to the First World War as mascots. The representative of these mascots – their mascot – was to be the unnamed ‘Siege Train Regimental Pet’ of day 55 [46]. But then something led me to begin with the highway story, and I thought of the number of kangaroos killed on roads each night, then of the number shot each night – the millions who die this way each year – and the unnamed regimental pet came to represent far more than his unknown fellow soldiers. I thought of kangaroos – this happens so often – hit by trucks carrying other animals to slaughter. I thought – how often does this happen each year? – of trucks carrying animals overturning, jack-knifing, and of those animals killed. I thought of the more than a billion animals slaughtered each week, world-wide, for human consumption. The commemoration of these few kangaroos dragged as mascots into human warfare, important as it is to commemorate them, came to seem infinitesimal by comparison. But perhaps, in a way, that was the point of commemorating an Unknown Soldier in the first place. Or should have been, can be, might be.

 

So yes, let’s take a moment’s silence thinking of the plight of the regimental pet and his fellows (who was he? where had he come from? what was his story? ), but then let’s step back, see them as emblematic of the whole devastating picture, of the endless, senseless war –against the kangaroo, that mindless, senseless war – but then of that in itself as emblematic of humanity’s age-long, unilateral war against animals.

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