Letters to the editor | February 16, 2018

Calls to stop kangaroo pet food trial expansion

THE Australian Society for Kangaroos is calling on the RSPCA to intervene and halt the expansion of the kangaroo meat and skins industry in Victoria before the Victorian pet food trial expires in March. 

The research is clear – the kangaroo meat and skins industry is the largest and one of the cruellest wildlife slaughters in the world.

As Australia’s most powerful animal protection body the RSPCA needs to step up and speak out against the ongoing suffering of hundreds of thousands of orphaned kangaroo joeys falling victim to this barbaric industry every year.

Research by the Rural Industries Research Development Corporation published in 2014 (from Sharp and McLeod) revealed that professional shooters for the kangaroo meat and skins industry are routinely killing pouch young using practices that breach their code of practice, leading to prolonged pain and suffering for the orphans.

It reveals that 99 per cent of dependent at-foot orphans are abandoned by professional shooters after their shoot their mother, leaving thousands of baby kangaroos to die every year from starvation, stress and predation.

The research also confirms that dependent at-foot young who become separated from their mother suffer severely, mentally and physically.

The researchers also observed shooters swinging pouch joeys by their hind legs while bashing them with an iron bar, bashing them against utility racks, stomping on their heads, and decapitating them without stunning, with shooters rarely checking if the joey was dead.

These practices are all in breach of the Code of Practice and have the potential the cause prolonged pain and suffering.

The RSPCA is aware of this research and has done their own research with similar findings, and as a powerful legislative body that claims to be ‘the leading authority in animal care and protection’ we urge them to take action and prevent any further cruelty being inflicted on orphaned baby joeys who are falling victim to this industry in Victoria.

Statistics also show Victoria’s pet food trial has dramatically increased the number of kangaroos being slaughtered in Victoria since it began in 2014, despite the Department Environment Land Water and Planning telling the media in 2016 that: “The trial does not aim to increase the number of kangaroos controlled” and, “The trial had not led to more kangaroos being killed”. (The Age, March 10, 2016).

According to documents obtained under Freedom of Information, the number of kangaroos being killed in trial zones has increased up to 700 per cent since the trial began in 2014 and government reports exposed a three-fold increase in the number of kangaroos being killed and the number being turned into pet food has tripled since the trial began.

These statistics clearly shows that the trial is not about utilising the kangaroos already being killed under damage mitigation permits, but an advancing commercial profit driven industry in Victoria’s iconic kangaroos. 

Nikki Sutterby, president, Australian Society for Kangaroos 

Teacher review shows differing standards

AS PART part of a teacher registration review, Education Minister Simon Birmingham has proposed to fast-track teacher qualifications for people with “real-world skills” such as nurses and tradespeople.

It is posited that this plan will help fill the teacher shortage and bring valuable new skills into schools. 

But this debate reflects a deeper issue – that Australia’s school and vocational sectors have different standards, and lack cohesion.

When Mr Birmingham talks about bringing people with real-world skills into teaching, he appears to mean skills from the vocational sector, such as trades. The issue is that schools and the vocational sector have different views about knowledge and skills and how these should be assessed, and have different expectations of teachers as a result.

The idea of bringing more diverse teaching skills into compulsory education is commendable in itself, as it would provide streams for a more diverse range of students. But it is undermined by the divide in Australia between academic and vocational education.

The plan might be seen favourably by schools wishing to increase teacher diversity to cater for the diverse students in their school. However, there could be a major problem of incompatibility.

In defining teaching as a profession underpinned by standards, the mismatch between the general education and vocational education stream collide.

This gap between the two systems has widened with the latest rises in standards for entry into the teaching profession, such as requiring candidates to be in the top 30 per cent in terms of personal literacy and numeracy, and completing a minimum of two years of tertiary study in the field of education.

In contrast, vocational education requires “practical” knowledge and skills combined with experience in the field and education in competency-based assessment. These two sets of requirement are very different.

Ultimately, the real imperative is to build a school education system that provides options and opportunity for our diverse range of students, and best equips them for their futures. To do this, we need a teaching profession that can meet such demands.

Professor Deborah Corrigan, deputy dean, Monash Faculty of Education 

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