A protest and a proposal: a pro-animal philosophy for the 21st Century

This is an edited (condensed) excerpt from a letter written to the Prime Minister of Australia on May 5, 2008, in regard to the kangaroo issue, not only in Canberra, Australia, but in general. It is a protest against a dominant anthropocentric ideology which construes wild animals to be objects and commodities for human use, management, or destruction. The signatories, representing different organisations and viewpoints, came together to endorse the letter. The writers, Ray and Carol Drew, are particularly indebted to the writing of the philosopher Val Plumwood. Please note that Defence has, since this letter was written, decided not to translocate and has killed the kangaroos at the former naval base. However, we will be very pleased if you endorse the values outlined below. These new values may help prevent or slow the destruction of wildlife everywhere.

IF YOU WISH TO ADD YOUR NAME TO THIS STATEMENT PLEASE SEE THE EMAIL LINK AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE If you have emailed the address below and your name has not been added, please let us know.


The current scientific evidence which supports the ‘cull’ of kangaroos is based on a neo-Cartesian outlook which forms part of an ideology which believes in the commodification of nature. (Plumwood, 2002). It is not far from the notion of Aristotle that animals exist only to provide humans with food and clothing (Singer as cited in Atterton & Calarco, 2004). As many contemporary thinkers are pointing out, present day ‘science’ is heavily overwritten with such discourse, which has no place in the 21st Century, especially in the context of the unprecedented ecological crisis. This outdated paradigm has negative consequences for kangaroos and other wild animals.

That most scientific thinking is still burdened by the notion that animals are more machine-like than consciously aware – disposable commodities – is evidenced by the alarming and rapid loss of wildlife around the world. Importantly, Australia, in particular, is cited as having “the worst rate of mammal extinction in the world.” We have the dubious honour of being accountable for “almost 40 per cent of mammal extinctions globally in the last 200 years” (WWF, 2008); an ‘honour’ that shames our very notion of civilisation. In NSW alone “more than 104 million native mammals, birds and reptiles have died or will die as a result of clearing native vegetation approved…between 1998 and 2005” (WWF, 2008). Valuable scientific work has been done to preserve the remnants of threatened species, and to warn of further environmental degradation. But traditional scientific thinking which considers itself capable of ‘managing’ the environment has serious problems. These shortcomings render it incapable of a holistic approach because of the human-centred ideological stance driving it.

As we move into the 21st. century there is a pressing need to continue growth and development at a phenomenal rate of expansion. The ACT, like other states and territories, is not alone in the quest for more housing as one response to this pressure. However, as housing is developed, humans encroach on the last vestiges of land that other animals live upon. Most of these animals, at least, can move to other areas (although with more difficulty each year) as we push them out. The kangaroos at BNTS, however, have no such choice. They are fenced in and cannot move voluntarily. Translocating these kangaroos, albeit with some degree of mortality rate, as opposed to slaughtering all of them (which guarantees a mortality rate of 100%) is the most principled step to take. Translocating them also allows a scientific exploration into alternatives other than killing. With such pressure on wildlife numbers now, through growth and development, killing becomes less of an option as this will only lead to further extinction (or near extinction) of once abundant species.


Population numbers of kangaroos in general are often touted as being robust and in ‘plague’ proportions. However, recent drought conditions combined with loss of habitat and annual ‘harvesting’ quotas have served to drastically reduce numbers of kangaroo species. The 2003 wildfires in the ACT which destroyed 164, 914 hectares (Environment ACT 2007) of ACT managed land also impacted negatively on local wildlife, including the Eastern Grey Kangaroo. In parts of NSW and SA kangaroo numbers are reported at ‘local’ quasi-extinction levels (Administrative Appeals Tribunal 2008).An analogous example which illustrates the vulnerability of wildlife, even in huge numbers, is that of the US Passenger Pigeon. Estimated at around ‘plague’ proportions of 5 billion when Europeans first arrived in North America it was subsequently hunted for its meat into extinction. The last pigeon died in 1914 (Ponting, 1992). Need we mention the current battle to rein in illegal killing of whales because of the threat this poses to their numbers worldwide. These examples serve as a warning to the ‘she’ll be right mate’ attitude we have towards species. We are best served by acting in a preventive manner, rather than waiting (in terms of public policy) until a crisis occurs and species are bordering on extinction.


In the last thirty years there has been a global coalescence of thought that heralds a new paradigm in our approach to wildlife and our natural environment. The late Val Plumwood, an eminent Australian intellectual, has stated that an outdated form of rationalism construes ‘nature to be a passive field for human endeavour’ a manageable order ‘that has no agency or autonomy of its own and imposes no real constraints on us’. (Plumwood, 2002.) She argues that nature has been turned into a commodity for us to buy, sell or consume as we please. There is ‘a deep gulf between those who can own and those who can be owned and exchanged as property, a division of the world into human and non-human...’ (Plumwood, 2002).

Other voices raised in defence of animals as sentient beings -- as opposed to the conception that they are solely ‘manageable’ objects for consumption or exploitation-- include Jacques Derrida, Luc Ferry, Luce Irigary, Peter Singer, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Heidegger stated boldly:

the illusion comes to prevail that everything man encounters exists only in so far as it is his own construct...this illusion gives rise to one final delusion: it seems as though man everywhere and always encounters himself. (cit. Plumwood, 1993).

The call for change, however, does not solely rest with the academy. Many Christian organisations now support a more sympathetic view of animals. Pope John Paul II, in 1990, stated ‘animals posses a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren.’ Further to this in the Catholic Church Catechism, paragraph 2416, it states, ‘By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory... it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.’


We look toward the development of a new outlook which moves away from an outdated and destructive anthropocentrism that regards nature only as material to be exploited, managed and consumed. Continuing to embrace outmoded paradigms and practices which are devoid of compassion will ultimately lead to a further loss of species, degradation of the environment, and an increase in the suffering of human beings. We look forward to your support for alternative ways of thinking and practice, which, with dialogue, will gradually supplant the old and unapt.

Kind regards,

Carol Drew, BA Communication (Hons) Canb, M. Ed (AE) UTS, Lecturer and Program Co-ordinator, University of Canberra and University of Canberra College.

Ray Drew, BA (Hons) Communication, MA Communication, Canb, Grad Cert Psychoanalytic Studies, Deakin.

Pat O’Brien, President, Wildlife Protection Assn of Australia Inc.
Coordinator, National Kangaroo Coalition,
Wildlife Representative, Animals Australia.

Nikki Sutterby, (Dip App Science Nursing, Grad. Dip. Comm Public Health, Grad. Cert. Addiction Studies)
President, Australian Society for Kangaroos,
Box 524 Castlemaine, Vic, 3450. PG: 0417354408

Maryland Wilson, B.A. Psychology (Hons) President, Australian Wildlife Protection Council, Inc.
247 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 3000.

Fiona Corke,.actor, social ecologist and campaigner for environmental and wildlife issues.

New signatories:

Associate Professor Kate Rigby, Ph. D., Associate Professor of German Studies, Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies
Director of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, Monash University.

Associate Professor Freya Mathews, Philosophy Program/CACE, La Trobe University

Kirsa Veal.

Anne-Marie Dineen ND Wildlife Carer Oakview Nature Refuge.

Vivienne Ortega.

Lincoln Young (MSc) Canberra, Australia.

Sylvia Raye.

Halina Steele.

Margarita Rosa Brown BSc(physics) NSW.

Claire Newman (RN, Dip MH Nurs) Member of Sydney Wildlife.

Margaret Larner.

Sylvia Cooper.

Patricia Cosgrove (BSc Psychology, UNSW), Hobart Tasmania.

Lyndsey Hamilton, member of WIRES, Central Coast, wildlife carer and rescuer.

Lorrae Desmond, MBE.

Liz Muench.

Joanna Pagan.

Menkit Prince.

Pamela Hayes.

Brett Clifton, BA (Asian Studies), MA (Policy Science), MPD

Ebony Bennett.

Earle Bingley, President, for The Canadian Voice for Animals Foundation. www.cvfaf.org

Julie Moffat

Maria Cristina Seiça

Sarah Elizabeth Taylor

Roz Holme Cedar creek wildlife refuge

Joelle Coudriou

Jennie Backman Djurens Rätt, Stockholm, Sweden

Jessica White

Linda McKenzie

Anthony McKenzie

Caroline Coghlan

Lilya Brinkmeyer

Brodie Dale

Jess Minns

Debra Nola

Irene Farmakidis

Sally Atkinson

Susanne Ulyatt http://www,wildlifemountain.com

Shane Ulyatt

Katrina Ulyatt

Patrice Christie

Alison McDonald

Lynda Staker
Lecturer of Macropod Husbandry and Disease Author 'The Complete Guide to the Care of Macropods'

Dr Kristin den Exter
School of Environmental Science, Southern Cross University Lismore NSW 2480
Principal Consultant, EcoLogic(NSW)
Secretary, Wilsons River Landcare Group Inc.
Member of WIRES Northern Rivers

Sonia Broi

Kylie Tuffin Vet Nurse & Wildlife Care Boddington WA 6714

Scott Tuffin Electrician & Wildlife Carer Boddington WA

Pam Doyle - macropod carer

Ruth Norris BHSAI, Equine and Small Animal Bowen Therapist, native animal carer

Denise Garratt, President, Help for Wildlife Inc.

Tarnie Doessel, Nurse, Wildlife Carer, Clermont, Qld

Jill Greenwood   Booyal  Qld.  Wildlife carer of macropods

Shelley Butchart - macropod carer WA

Elizabeth Neville

Serena Hershon

Diana McGregor

Mark Drummond

Audrey Koosmen President  Native Animal Trust Fund Inc  Wildlife Rescue Service Hunter Region NSW.
and Chair NSW Wildlife Council.

Kate Gilchrist

Kimbah Pengelly BA LLB, member of WIRES Northern Rivers

Carola Anstis Carlisle River Wildlife Shelter

Dr Teresa Buss-Carden World League for Protection of Animals Sydney (NSW)

Jaya Lewis

Lin Ashton, Acton Park, Tasmania.

Eleni Michaels

Sharon Elvey, Wildlife Carer

Rhonda Jensen Bachelor of Communication M.A. Film and Television
Conservationist and carer

John Hungerford, Wallaby Rescue, QL

Darlene Donn Saucedo, Bakersfield, CA, USA

Nathalie Billiotte, France.

Ingrid Moore, Evatt, A.C.T.

Maree Dosenko, Australia.

Dawn Gilbert, W.A.

David Dawesville, W.A.

Sally Arthur, Bribie Island Wildlife Carer.

Rupert Grant, Artist.

Kevin Edridge, W.A.G. Inc

Helen Ling

Gillian Bennett B. Eng (electronic), B IT, Wildlife Carer, SE QL.






Administrative Appeals Tribunal (2008). Transcript of proceedings No. 2007/535 Retrieved 4th. May 2008 from http://www.kangaroo-protection-coalition.com/support-files/transcript4.pdf

Atterton, P., & Calarco, M. (2004). Animal philosophy: essential readings in continental thought. London: Continuum.

Catholic Church Catechism (2008). Retrieved 3rd. May 2008 from http://www.christusrex.org/ww1/CDHN/seventh.html

Environment ACT. (2008) www.environment.act.gov.au

Plumwood, V. (1993). Feminism and the mastery of nature. London: Routledge.

Singer, P. (2004). Preface. In P. Atterton. & M. Calarco (Eds.), Animal philosophy: essential readings in continental thought. London: Continuum.

Ponting, C. (1992). A green history of the world. London: Penguin Books.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) (2008). Australian species and climate change. Retrieved 3rd. May 2008 http://www.wwf.org.au/publications/australian-species-and-climate-change-report/





If you as an individual or your pro-animal organisation would like to sign the above document for display on the internet, and as an indication of your support for the philosophy outlined above, please email Ray and Carol Drew at raydrew@internode.on.net with your details and a 'yes'. Your name will be added. If you have had problems getting the email link to work in the past few days, please try again. A technical error has been corrected - hopefully.