THE LIFE AND DEATH OF KANGAROOS

On Monday May 19, 2008, government contractors started killing the kangaroos on a former naval base in Canberra, Australia. By May 29 they (514) were dead. This, in a diary in reverse, is their story and the fight to save them. Warning: this site contains images of animal suffering that may disturb some viewers. Photography: Ray Drew

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ALL OF THE KANGAROOS IN THE PHOTOGRAPH ABOVE ARE NOW DEAD. THEY WERE NEEDLESSLY KILLED IN THE LAST WEEK OF MAY 2008, following a world wide campaign to save them. The area to which they were later driven and killed can be seen at the top of the image. This site forms part of the National archive at the National Library of Australia. Images © Ray Drew 2008

Updated news, 2009, MAY 16: ANOTHER SLAUGHTER. A few weeks ago, the Department of Defence in Australia began to shoot up to 7,000 kangaroos living on the giant Majura military base in Canberra, ACT. About 3500 to 4000 have already been shot at night. On May 14, 2009, an injunction was granted by a court to halt the killing temporarily until further investigations into the reasonableness of the kill are held. The Chief Minister of the ACT, Jon Stanhope, says he will try to bring in new legislation which will allow the kill to resume. But at present the kangaroos have a reprieve until at least June. The blurry photo below, taken at night 3 km away from the shooting on the closed base, shows the rear lights of a truck, left, and a light trained on the bodies of recently shot kangaroos. Those left alive were despatched by extra shots from men in the truck. Please sign the protest petition below this pic. This is another needless slaughter in a country with a miserable record of wildlife slaughter. This photo (below): Carolyn Drew

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NEW - 2009: PLEASE SIGN THE NEW PETITION AND PHILOSOPHY STATEMENT OPPOSING AUSTRALIA'S WILDLIFE SLAUGHTER

MORE NEWLY RELEASED PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE LAST MINUTES OF LIFE OF THESE KANGAROOS

A photographic background: condemned kangaroos

Other kangaroo images

Candid images of the shooter, managers, security guards, and students at work

A new perspective: a pro-animal philosophy for the 21st Century - please view and sign

LOOKING BACK FROM early June, 2008: It's over.  A crane was there at 10 am, and it removed the remaining chiller boxes at noon. All day I heard the clink and clang of the temporary fences being dismantled – the same sound I heard when some kangaroos, in panic, ran into them last week. I sat next to an old guy, a survivor kangaroo, who was feeding in a remote corner of the site. I am sure I knew him-- he had half an ear torn off from a battle some time ago – and by that I recognised an old friend. A friend appeared through the bush and joined me. We sat there together for quite a time. As the last fences go, the site has an ugly emptiness of death after a plague. I passed the place (above) where fifty or so animals used to lie by the water, some occasionally bathing, and all that remains are pockets of flattened grass.

This series of events have changed our lives. All those who witnessed it from the fence were sickened by what they saw -- animal carers, experienced press photographers, lawyers, writers, teachers. Some of us have dedicated ourselves to work for the kangaroos. Some have rededicated themselves. Some have formed new relationships, some may have lost theirs. Some are preparing for court. There are many stories. Some have sworn to leave Canberra.  All will never be quite the same.

It was the first kangaroo massacre, as far as I know, that has been fully ‘outed’, and it revealed the dark underside of European Australia, a society that has never accepted the landscape and its wildlife. We also saw cold bureaucracy at work, and with it, a neo-Cartesian scientism . These events have been comprehensively photographed, videoed, and recorded, live. And the world knows about it. I have always believed (and discovered) that showing or publicly ‘outing’ once hidden atrocities works powerfully to end them, whether it be in a mental institution, a prison, an abbatoir, or a kangaroo ‘cull’. In this case we saw, in this decimation, acts of murder of another mammal carried out with dissociated sadism; we saw young PhD students herding the animals and we saw security guards joining in. Almost depraved, other than that, were the rationalisations for the killing and the disinformation in which allegedly respected academics took part: ludicrous, if not so tragic.

I do believe that we have given the perpetrators a hell of a shock. But of course they’ll try it again, and again. And they will be answered.

Hundreds of kangaroos at the Belconnen Naval Transmission station, Canberra, Australia, were slaughtered. Their crime: growing up on fenced-in land, 118 ha in size, which the government wants to develop. In a series of rationalisations, the government first announced the animals had to be 'culled' because they were starving (a standard government excuse). Later, more sophisticated rationales - they were supposed to be endangering a rare grasshopper, a golden sun moth, and a peppercrest. When, earlier, these and other 'vulnerable species' were discovered on other patches of land, the government happily built over them. When destroying the kangaroos, contracted vehicles haphazardly criss-crossed quite large sections of the site. The resultant dust bowl in the central area was not caused by grazing kangaroos, but the contract killers. So much for the vulnerable species.

A not-too-distant analogy: in the concentration camps of WW2, human beings who opposed the Nazi ideology were classed as Untermenschen, sub-humans, likened to animals. They were placed behind barbed wire, some were made subject to fertility experiments, most forced into killing chambers and executed en masse. Their bodies were thrown into pits. They were removed to make way for more living space. That process, that mechanism, has returned to eliminate wild animals in order to make room for more living space. The kangaroos have been labelled 'pests', killed, body parts made into scrotum bags and novelties, devalued, brutalised, vilified, and eaten. I spoke to an elderly European lady who witnessed the killing. 'Other than the fact that they were killing kangaroos,' she said, 'it was the same as it was then with the Nazis. It brought it all back.'

The fundamental ideology that animals exist to be controlled, utilised, exploited, tortured, or killed by human beings is so deep seated and widespread, so embedded in this culture and civilisation, that nearly all scientists cannot comprehend a viewpoint other than this. In fact, 'civilisation,' it may be argued, is an elaborate project to try to justify and rationalise distantiation from other animals and nature. The careers of most scientists are intertwined with this neo-Cartesian, anthropocentric outlook. Hope for a change appears to lie more in the field of new ideas and protest arising in the fields of deep ecology, eco feminism, cultural studies, or contemporary psychoanalysis.

MAY 29, 2008 The 'cull' has allegedly finished. Apart from the experimental animals, only a few kangaroos appear to remain of over 500 (we trust those two will be allowed to live out their days). We shall confirm that it is really all over when the internal fences come down. Most of the bodies of the dead animals were removed to another military base today for burial.

MAY 28, 2008 noon The killing continues, but there are only perhaps 50 animals left (around 450 killed). A few male kangaroos have staged a fightback. A witness saw a male kangaroo jump over a pursuer's truck. Four attempts were made by contractors and security guards to corral the kangaroo and all failed. We hope he survives. No doubt the contractors, who have no sense of mercy, will retry in the early morning. (We pray that they shall be spared). Video and still cameras from different locations will be watching them. Below: A dead kangaroo is taken away from near the killing area. I do not know how it died. There is another animal nearby with a collar. That means it is supposed to be saved for experimental purposes. But because it has apparently escaped from the enclosure where those animals have been kept, procedure demands it be re-anaesthetised before being sent back.

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MAY 27, 2008, 12.30 pm. (Tues) Contractors drive about fifty kangaroos toward the kill area. Few remain, although it is expected roundups of remaining animals will go on until at least the weekend. It appears that even the very old animals, with less than a year or so to live, will be killed - and the youngest as well. Although thousands of individuals have come together in ever increasing numbers on the Internet to protest this act of callousness, most of the citizens of Canberra have remained apathetic. Many people who ride their bicycles past the scene above show not the slightest concern for the welfare of the animals. When all is said and done, their death can be put at the feet of a public which, to date, has no sensitivity to animal suffering. A visitor, who drove 600 miles to the site, arrived today to ask, 'where are the thousands of protestors?' When told there were only a half dozen protesting tonight at the site, he yelled, 'WHY?' Why indeed.

On the other hand, the many thousands of people here in Australia and overseas who are appalled by this action have renewed their determination to end such horrors. The practices of those who conducted the killing have, for the first time, been comprehensively documented by modern media, and Australian government will have a lot of explaining to do to an increasingly critical world.

MAY 26, 2008 World wide protest against the continuing kill increases. A number of Australian filmmakers are already beginning documentaries. This 'cull,' which Defence and the ACT government, would be quickly concluded and forgotten, has galvanised hundreds of animal care organisations throughout the country. An Australia wide network involving thousands of people disgusted by this kill is being constructed. All the audiovisual footage of the cull has been sent to a large number of databases for future publication in this country and overseas.

Today the killing continued, but at a slower pace. Most killing is now attempted in the early morning and later afternoon.

A disturbing and illegal move has seen the contracted security guards join the 'cull' to herd the kangaroos. Protestors and even press photographers are also being filmed by this new alliance.

MAY 24, 2008. The killing goes on. The contractors, this time aided by guards (an act quite out of their jurisdiction) have been herding the kangaroos. 100 (perhaps more) kangaroos now appear to remain. This photograph shows some herded into the area close to the killing area. All are terribly stressed (note the arm licking). Those who visited the site today, animal carers and media people, have been shocked, and many have vowed not to rest until the world sees this cold brutality. One of the most experienced wildlife campaigners in Australia stated that it was the most sickening spectacle he has ever witnessed. The photographs below suggest, but do not fully depict, the living horror. It is interesting to note that no local sitting politician has attended the site to witness the suffering of these animals. The so-called ecologically conscious Greens party here have ignored it. Five kangaroos escaped today by squeezing under the boundary fence. It is becoming harder and harder for the perpetrators to force the roos into the kill zone - they are running in the opposite direction when the door is opened. But it is a losing battle.heroes

MAY 23, 2008. I have not added photographs, because the images I have today are similar to those below. The images will be used in further court action. I will only add that the remaining kangaroos have learned not to approach the killing circle. To counteract this 'beaters' have used a kind of hessian net to force the animals forward. It is worth noting that the perpetrators are scientists, accompanied by students, not farmers or outback hillbillies. Their version of science allows the utmost dissociation. Naturally, those who have witnessed the slaughter, some over days, are very angry indeed. I note that public intellectuals are considering writing a critique of anthropocentric science in an entire issue of a forthcoming well-known journal; several film makers are working on a documentary of the events; Australia Zoo (Wildlife Warriors) have now condemned the cull - the world now knows more about Australia's culture of wildlife abuse. And the world is not amused.

Of course, there have been reactions. A handful of locals gathered near the site to celebrate the 'success' of the cull with a banner inviting those passing to a barbeque of 'roo steaks.' They were pictured on page one of the local paper. Australia has a long way to go before a sincere acknowedgement of animal consciousness and suffering develops. They remain objects to be controlled, managed, exploited and killed.

MAY 22, 2008. After eight protestors were arrested when they staged an indigenous re-occupation at the site, the killers have been darting animals as fast as possible. The same kind of events happened at the site: earlier today a kangaroo trapped in the killing area tried to jump over the walls - witnesses saw half its body appear above the hessian -- which must have been 5-6 metres high (see pic below) Then it fell to its death, shot by a dart gun loaded with very potent drug(s). It was a sight that moved onlookers to tears and rage. A campaign to arrest vocal protestors is underway. About 7 pm: Carol Drew arrested outside the main gate.

MAY 21, 2008. Warning: these photographs show an animal "cull". In the image below, 'beaters' - two female and one male - drive kangaroos into the opening at far right. The grey/silver coloured box inside the opening conceals a man (the top of his head may be faintly seen) who shoots the kangaroos with a dart. Inside the kill circle the walls were doubled in height because kangaroos were actually leaping twice their height to escape. Now escape is impossible. At left, two kangaroos, in panic, have collided with a metal pole. Near the centre of the pic, a young kangaroo (joey) stands bewildered. Operators now try to kill at dusk, when photographers have great difficulty with insufficient light.

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Above: When contractors tried to force more kangaroos by driving behind them with this vehicle toward the killing zone, a young animal slammed into the wire fencing and died. The individual who actually shoots the all the animals from a hide is at right. They placed the body in a bag.

Today about thirty were killed, but the area once propular with kangaroos -- near a lake -- is now empty. 'Experts' once tallied the number of roos on site to be up to around 700, but as only about 200 have been killed and the site is already looking deserted, evidence is mounting that they lied about the numbers.

TUESDAY, MAY 20, 2008 The same slaughter as Monday's (see photos below) repeated today. The only difference is that huge press coverage showing terrified, injured, and shot roos, has forced the contractors to resort to cunning. After the press called it a day, they started shooting at dusk, in semi darkness. A witness said she saw 30 more killed. When darkness set in, killing staff had not left the area. A visit to the site at 10 pm revealed that finally, all was still. -- until 7.30 am on Wednesday (tomorrow) when the whole ugly episode - in the name of science -- will continue. In the Orwellian world of the killing machine, helicopters flying overhead with press photographers are to be banned because they 'stress the animals '-- but driving them into a killing yard after a day's wait and shooting them with lethal darts is not. Kangaroos making massive leaps over the killing circle, in a last desperate attempt to escape, and dying with broken legs, is not, apparently, stress.

More protestors have arrived from interstate, but their numbers are few. The Australian public has been shaken by press photographs of the slaughter, but seems paralysed to act. In part they think that if the government has sanctioned it, (and even the RSPCA has sanctioned it), there must be a good, moral reason for having them killed. They also fear that if they demonstrate, they could be arrested. Recent online polls show that the public are now divided about 50-50 for and against the kill. While the main body of kangaroos are killed, another small team is darting females and while they are unconscious, injecting them with sterilisation drugs. We saw two kangaroos left unconscious, and on awakening, were crashing into tree trunks and falling over. This went on for over thirty minutes. Some of these 'guinea pigs' have had multiple tests, multiple invasions of their integrity. This kind of scientism is ugly, brutal, and patriarchal.

THE FIRST DAY.

MONDAY, MAY 19, 2008 The FIRST DAY of the kill.

On a foggy morning, contracted workers set up the last fences in order to trap kangaroos on the site. They consist of men and women, many of whom are government employees. They do not know they are being photographed.

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The kangaroos are 'beaten' by noise and hand signals to run left into a race leading to a killing zone to near the centre of the naval base.

Joey and dead mother

They arrive at a 'killing zone' at the end of the 'funnel'. Here a joey is left alive (temporarily) - (small figure 1/3 of the way from left) while its mother and another kangaroo can be seen silhouetted, dead behind a hessian screen. The car at right pulls a trailer in which the bodies are thrown.

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The innocents are in a state of shock and fear. They group together seeking a way out of their prison. They are killed in groups of ten. Below: they are forced onward to the place where the shooter awaits.
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Workers warily approach the body of a kangaroo. This photo indicates how some humans fear wildlife - the man at left (actually, the shooter) looks as if he is approaching a brown snake. Apparently the small kangaroo escaped from the killing zone and collapsed back into the approach section. It died.

Tomorrow (Tuesday May 20) the killing will go on until - unless a halt is called -- all the living animals you see on this page are dead.

This is how Australians treat their national symbol. If they get in the way or urban development, they must go. Translocation is extremely rare.

While those who love and care for injured kangaroos weep, the mass does not. A popular Sydney daily newspaper printed the news of the slaughter in Canberra. Nearly 150 people wrote in within an hour or so with their comments. About 140 delighted in the kill, slurring the very few who opposed it. The bloodhounds wrote statements calling kangaroos 'pests', abusing people like Sir Paul McCartney who oppose the slaughter, demanded people eat kangaroo meat, and so on. Even the late Steve Irwin, who loved kangaroos, would have been branded a 'hippy' (sic) or a 'wanker'. Most of the attacks contained statements that are grossly ill-informed. This is the general state of Australian 'culture' at this moment in time. This is the country that campaigns to save the whale.

 

We ask you to protest. Ray Drew.

Photographs © Ray Drew 2008

Information about Ray Drew (bio)

BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND MORE ABOUT THE KANGAROOS

Australia: a culture of violence toward its native animals.

The government has claimed that moving the animals is too expensive. It has also claimed (reasons vary from month to month) they overcrowd the site, that they are endangering vulnerable species, or they are starving and they must be killed for 'humane' reasons. The protesters say all these accusations are false, and the real reason is that the animals must be got rid of to make way for urban development. It is a fact that the local government intends to build housing on the grasslands outside the base fence, and probably inside as well when they take possession of the base within 18 months. No mention has been made of danger to rare species in the grasslands that extend outside the base fence. Do vulnerable species cease to exist a metre from the boundary wire? Astoundingly, the government allows cattle to graze there. The truth is that the ACT government has a policy of never translocating kangaroos -- killing is its traditional solution to animals that get in the way of development or sheep or cattle farmers. Within Australia, kangaroo lives are almost valueless, other than as a source of meat or hide. Comparatively few Australians admire their beauty and sensitivity - those that do love them do so with great passion. Otherwise, the gentle animals appear to arouse an unreasoning hatred among sectors of the population. Whenever the government announces a 'cull' (kill) thousands do NOT flock to protest the slaughter. In contrast, visitors to the country adore them and cannot understand the mass slaughter, which amounts to 3.6 million or more a year. That amounts to 10,000 killed every night.

GENERAL WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY BY RAY DREW: emus, wallabies, birdlife, etc. http://www.raydrew.net/intro.htm

Other web sites with photographs and writing by Ray Drew:

http://www.dear-animals.com

http://www.raydrew.net   (MAIN DOMAIN) and

http://www.australiananimalphotos.com

Roo drinking

Kangaroo drinking at sunset at the old naval base, early May 2008. She has been killed.

Roo at sunset

A kangaroo at the base about a week before the kill decision was made by the Australian government. Now dead.

More images of the horror.

All images on this site © Ray Drew 2008. Contact e-mail raydrew@raydrew.net for written permission to publish any images as prints, in printed material, or on the Internet, or to contact the photographer.