UNACCEPTABILITY OF KILLING AS A MEANS OF ADDRESSING CONSERVATION PROBLEMS
Over the years the ACT Government has favoured killing over non-lethal options. The Government’s claim to adhere to the National Code of Practice does not guarantee the absence of immense suffering of kangaroos and their young in the killing process. As in commercial killing, in “conservation” killing joeys are decapitated using the same barbaric methods (e.g. clubbing), and inaccurate shots at the targeted animals can occur resulting in prolonged suffering. Autopsy evidence for a body recovered following the 2012 massacre shows that the kangaroo was first shot, then clubbed, then stabbed in the neck and finally died by exsanguination. The dying process was long and extremely painful.
Various more cost-effective and less invasive options have been proposed to the ACT Government, one of them being translocation, which if carried out appropriately and by caring experts can be successful and the negative impact on kangaroos due to interference can be minimised., Nevertheless, the ACT Government chooses to kill the kangaroos. In fact, in 2008, after protests from the public, the Commonwealth Department of Defence agreed to translocate the kangaroos trapped in the Belconnen Naval Transmission Station grounds instead of killing them. To do so the Department of Defence needed a permit from the ACT Government before the kangaroos could be moved. The ACT Government refused to grant such permit, and promoted killing instead.
The ACT Government has announced its intention to explore fertility control options over the next couple of years at designated small sites. The question of why it has taken so long for the ACT Government to consider non-lethal methods aside, given the likely general decline in kangaroo numbers across the country and the ACT itself, and the disputed science behind the ACT Government’s plan to further reduce the number of kangaroos on the reserves, fertility control raises concerns.
Although killing is often the first response in dealing with real or imaginary ecosystem challenges, killing is an intrinsically violent act, and as such it is ethically unacceptable. The act of killing also disregards the scientific consensus on nonhuman animals’ sentience, which compels us to avoid considering nonhuman animals as mere numbers and objects, the latter being a familiar perception in conventional conservation. A paradigm shift in conservation is urgently needed – one that would recognise, admit and act upon, on the one hand, nonhuman animals’ sentience and their complex emotional, psychological and social lives, and on the other hand human responsibility for many of the conservation problems we’re facing today.
Anthropogenic fragmentation and modification of the land has left us with ecologically important hubs – potentially the only remaining safe homes for certain animals and plants. If this local ecosystem is under threat, there is good reason to consider options to de-stress it and preserve the balance and lives within it. Before any kind of interference, however, the very presence of the imbalance as well as the extension of it (should the imbalance prove to be real) has to be scrupulously assessed given that any kind of interference/invasion is bound to cause stress to animals, or even (unintentionally) kill them. The ACT Government fails to adopt this basic ethical and common-sense principle, favouring instead “precautionary” blood-shed.
For long-term sustainability a far more holistic approach is necessary, one that recognises the enormous human impact on the rest of the world, and, responsibly, acts upon such recognition. So called conservation is still largely viewed as something separate from humans, something governments and interested NGOs are supposed to deal with, and which we may or may not occasionally support with small donations and a signature on the odd petition. Possibilities of proactive approaches employing the community itself are largely not considered. However, active participation of the public is elemental and should be encouraged not only because greater awareness of the extent of the problems may arise through such participation but also because it provides additional valuable resources with immediate and direct benefits, such as optimising private backyards to accommodate the needs of wildlife species (birds, reptiles, beetles, etc.) or converting swimming pools into wildlife ponds, both trends on the rise, increasingly supported by local administrations. This in conjunction with the construction of wildlife corridors, the maximisation of available green space within and outside cities to enhance biodiversity and the relinquishment of clearly destructive practices in the use of resources offers a viable alternative to the current violence-based approaches, while promoting and enhancing respectful coexistence.