Canberra Kangaroo Cull - May 2008
An Animal Rights Article from


The Life and Death of Kangaroos
May 2009

Updated news May 16, 2009: 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 dispatched by extra shots from men in the truck. Please sign the protest petition below this picture. This is another needless slaughter in a country with a miserable record of wildlife slaughter.

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 is their story and the fight to save them.


All of the kangaroos in the photograph above are now dead. They were needlessly killed in the last week of May 2008, following a worldwide 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.


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.

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.



The two images directly above are from an official report. All other images on this site are © Ray Drew 2008 and must not be used without the written permission of the photographer, Ray Drew.

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. Someone 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 careers, 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 abattoir, 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.

For more pictures and information, visit The Life and Death of Kangaroos.

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