Kangaroos – The 100 Days Project: Day 26 
A tiny, innocuous piece. You’d think nothing was going on. But you might be wrong. On the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) news site two days ago (29 December), about a U.S. country singer’s gift to his wife this Christmas of two kangaroo joeys. The piece comes with a photograph, of the joeys, wearing nappies, lying on a living-room hearth, a fire blazing behind them.
Concerning, of course. How had the joeys been made available to this singer in the first place? Did this couple have the slightest clue as to how to look after them? Etc. And it seems numerous ‘animal rights’ people had already expressed their concern. But also, when one read the item again, a little odd. Slight as it seemed, it had the whiff of spin, a plant. No source or journalist was named. Why was the piece there? Who had written it? Why had it been accepted?
And offensive, at least to me, beginning as it did with the false and I think malicious statement that ‘While Australians think of kangaroos as pests, in some parts of the United States they can be kept as pets.’ Do Australians think of kangaroos as pests? Certainly I don’t, and in several decades of speaking with other Australians have not found all that many, other than graziers, children of graziers, rural workers, and representatives of the kangaroo industry (who need people to think of kangaroos as pests, since they need support in killing them), who do. But perhaps it was just that the unnamed writer got so excited over their own oh-so-clever anagram (‘pest’/‘pets’ ) that they threw truth out the window.
The real target of the piece was unclear. On the one hand you could see an item beginning with such an outrageous statement as propaganda directed toward Australians themselves: tell the Australian people often enough that they think something and, ridiculous as that thing may be, some may start to believe it. On the other hand I couldn’t shrug the sense that its real audience was elsewhere, the U.S. itself, very likely (if Australians think of kangaroos as pests, then why should we have a conscience about them?). Was the piece syndicated? Was its origin elsewhere? The kangaroo industry is trying to expand its U.S. market (and its Chinese, its Russian, its European), and such seemingly innocuous little ‘plants’, here and abroad, could very well be part of its strategy. In some ways the piece appears to be ‘balanced’ – it expresses concern for the fate of the two joeys, projects an animal welfare slant – but in others betrays a further agenda, providing as it does an opportunity for a brief survey of U.S. laws regarding roo ownership, and warning, at the same time (too much cute can be detrimental to the meat market), that these cuddly creatures can be dangerous. In the state of Georgia, it tells us, kangaroos are considered ‘inherently dangerous’. ‘Others’, it tells us while discussing on-line responses to the gift, ‘slammed the singer for disregarding the possible dangers the animals could pose’, by which I can only assume family dogs disembowelled by macropod claws, children laid out by a single punch…:
Photo: Ray Drew
Myths and exaggerations. While there can be no disputing that kangaroos and humans have sometimes come to blows, it has usually been when roos have been surprised or cornered. Dogs have often been involved. When one searches for reports of humans killed by kangaroos one finds only the one, from 1936, a hunter who tried to rescue his dogs from a roo they had attacked and who was fighting, one presumes, for his life.
Everything connects (as Leonardo da Vinci said). On the same ABC page was a piece alleging that the Federal Government had spent $700 million in the last twelve months on ‘management consultants’. What chance some of that went into managing spin for the kangaroo industry?
All this, in any case, pales in comparison to an item published in the Daily Mail two days before: ‘What is killing our kangaroos? Millions of roos wiped out by mystery disease that causes massive haemorrhages and internal bleeding’.
But I’ll leave that – a veritable Pandora’s Box – for another post. It may not be true that everything connects, but a great many things do.
Meanwhile you can check out the ABC piece yourself