A Letter From David Nicholls
I was a professional kangaroo shooter 38 years ago. Now I spend an inordinate amount of time in the defence of animals that are doing poorly at the hands of humans. You may ask as to what has led me to do a complete turnabout in my thinking, and expect some profound answer explaining that at such and such a moment in time the sky opened up and all of a sudden I saw the light. Sorry to disappoint, but it did not happen this way.
If there is any profundity in my “conversion”, it is that I have come to the realization that we are all led down differing paths in life by our genetic make-up and the circumstance that we find ourselves in. In my case, 38 years ago, the whole social, political and animal concern scene was vastly different to today.
There was a predominate attitude of human matters being at the fore of thought and a mish-mash of ideas when dealing with the other animals on the planet. On the one hand, personal pets were gaining in the welfare stakes, as were wild creatures that had “fluffy” appeal. On the other, domestic stock conditions were degrading rapidly into the factory farm situation that is still rampant now.
This some decades of time saw European cities and other population centres around the Western World explode into greater awareness of the suffering of our “food”. Unfortunately, socio/economic pressures had rural climes, to a large extent, excluded from this expansion of a new way in thinking about the rest of nature. In this distant past, the kangaroo was erroneously thought of as a pest that was diminishing the financial returns of those who depended on their income in outback areas. This excuse was reasoning enough for kangaroos to be killed without compassion, for they were the enemy.
Even so, I, and I would suggest many other kangaroo shooters, were and are, very uneasy with the practice of having to kill Joeys on a never ending basis. It was not understood then that the Joey-at-foot would also die in a state of terror by psychological deprivation, predation or starvation. Many kangaroo shooters now convince themselves that this Joey escapes and lives happily ever after. Delusions of this sort are not uncommon in the industry and in governments and their acting agents.
Self-delusion played a big part in my experience as a kangaroo shooter but let me state here in the most unequivocal manner that is possible, to be able to self deceive is part and parcel of being human. There will be those that read this in a most judgmental way, comforting themselves with the thought that they could never have done such a thing as kangaroo shooting. Be very careful of that kind of thinking because it does not accord with the facts about the capacity of humanity to be inhumane to people and animals, given the right set of circumstances. Be very careful that you are not self-deluding yourself on this point, for if you are, you are just the person who could be a kangaroo shooter if the situation dictated it so.
I do come across this kind of condemnation but it so insignificant when compared to the mental anguish I put myself through on a daily basis as to be non-existent. This will be carried till the day I die. Thoughts of the terrible woundings and as stated, the slaughter of the innocents and now with greater knowledge, thoughts of the at-foot-Joey’s left to fend for themselves in their thousands. Thoughts of taking the lives of countless numbers of kangaroos for convenient reasons. Thoughts of being a part of the juggernaut that was and is altering the genetic make up of a marvelous animal. Thoughts of my part in vilifying the kangaroo with the end result of it not having the awed respect, as it should, of the Australian people.
Every time there is a wanton act of cruelty to kangaroos, I must bear some of the blame. I stopped being a kangaroo shooter for many reasons, with the cruelty only one of the many. The kangaroo is not a pest and it is only the greedy and the foolhardy who believe it is a resource to be used at whim. Australia must re-define its stubbornly inadequate definition of what is compassion and in doing so reap the rewards of not only doing the right thing, but the very tangible benefits of the eco-tourist dollar.
No doubt other kangaroo shooters will read this, so it seems appropriate to leave a message for them. If you can see past the self-delusion of what you are doing to other sentient and suffering capable creatures, for the sake of your future mind, do not wait for kangaroo shooting to be discarded as a remnant of our brutish past, as it will, but choose to get out now. The rest of your life will thank you for this very wise action. This I guarantee.
The Killing of Kangaroos, Australia’s Icon
David Nicholls challenges the view that the kangaroo industry is humane:
The mouth of a kangaroo can be blown off and the kangaroo can escape to die of shock and starvation. Stomachs can be hit expelling the contents with the kangaroo still alive. Backbones can be pulverised to an unrecognisable state.
Hind legs can be shattered with the kangaroo desperately trying to get away on the other or without the use of the other.
To deny that this goes on is just an exercise in attempting to fool the public.
Kangaroos have a social life not unlike humans, with strong mother and Joey ties, companions, relatives and the like. When continually shot, kangaroos fret for loved ones, their own lives being forced to live in a state of spasmodic terror.
Kangaroos can be and are horribly wounded, in pouch joeys are bludgeoned to death. The out of pouch joeys all alone for the first time in their short lives, panic stricken after witnessing the brutal death of its mother, are left to die from starvation and/or hypothermia.
The survivors live in a state of constant fear with proper social order in constant disarray and upheaval.