Animal welfare group condemns kangaroo promo

SYDNEY, Australia, AP

Animal welfare campaigners have condemned government efforts to promote kangaroo meat in Europe as an alternative to beef and lamb.

Canberra has granted 60,000 Australian dollars (US$29,000) to the kangaroo processing industry to help promote itself as fears of foot-and-mouth and mad cow diseases sweep Europe.

World League for the Protection of Animals spokeswoman Halina Thompson criticized the kangaroo industry for seeking to cash in on the diseases’ spread.

She said if the kangaroo industry in Australia were to boom, it could eat itself out of existence.

“To produce the (equivalent of) 1,700,000 tons of cattle meat annually the industry would have to kill the entire kangaroo population of Australia about 566 times a year,” Thompson said.

She also said that in 1996, veterinarians in Victoria state deemed the killing of kangaroos for human consumption as unhygienic.

Tony Kelly, development officer with the Australian Kangaroo Association, rejected the charge, saying kangaroo meat was subject to the same strict checks as sheep and cattle.

Kelly said kangaroo meat sold for human consumption is free of all disease, extremely low in fat and was a healthy meat option.

Kangaroos are not raised commercially in Australia. Processing companies kill about 3 million of the animals each year for their meat.

Thompson called on the federal Tourism Minister Jackie Kelly to stop the promotion of kangaroo for consumption and instead highlight the distinctive marsupial as a tourist attraction.

“They need to be promoting kangaroos as a wildlife experience,” Thompson said.

She said ecotourism, where visitors see kangaroos in the wild, would make a real and long-term contribution to Australia’s wealth.