Kangaroo cull will not damage Australia's reputation: FM
Australia's international image will not be damaged by a controversial cull of wild kangaroos on government land in the capital, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said on Tuesday.
Asked whether killing the hopping marsupials, which appear on the country's coat of arms, would harm Australia's reputation, Smith said: "No, I don't think it will."
The Department of Defence said it ordered the cull of about 400 eastern grey kangaroos, which began Monday, as a last option after the animals overcrowded the site in Canberra, threatening endangered flora and fauna.
The killing of the iconic creatures has been attacked by some animal rights groups who say Australia, which this summer led international criticism against Japan for its annual whale hunt in the Southern Ocean, should relocate them.
Smith said the kangaroo cull, which involves tranquilising the animals before euthanasing them with a lethal injection, would be judged on its merits.
"The relevant authorities here have an argument, a scientific and environmental and a sustainability argument, which will stand or fall on its own merits," he told reporters in Canberra.
Animal rights activists, who plan to ask former Beatle Paul McCartney to help save the lives the iconic animals by helping fund their removal to another area, have vowed to protest against the cull which could take five weeks.
Two protesters attempted to disrupt the process on Tuesday, entering the site and disturbing a small number of kangaroos which had been sedated as part of a fertility trial, a defence spokesman said.
"The actions of the protesters frightened and agitated the kangaroos," Brigadier Andrew Nikolic said.
The department called off the cull earlier this year after a public outcry, but last week said it had to call in contractors to kill the animals because the government had deemed a relocation plan too expensive.
The animal welfare group RSPCA said it was confident the killing of the national icon was humane and was the only option after a decade of neglect of the problem.
Environment Minister Peter Garrett also backed the cull, saying it was the correct action to take given the kangaroos were eating all available foliage in the area and placing other species at risk.
"A properly-administered humane cull, difficult as it is, is the right course of action," said Garrett, the former lead singer with protest rockers Midnight Oil.
Despite being the national animal, millions of kangaroos are slaughtered in the wild each year to control their numbers and much of the meat is used for pet food. Most Australians have also eaten kangaroo, recent research found.