Government Adulterated Kangaroo Kill Report
An independent scientific assessment questioning the ecological sustainability of kangaroo harvesting was rewritten because it conflicted with government policy. The assessment was prepared for the Howard government's 2006 State of the Environment Report; a benchmark document intended to shape government environment policy for the next five years.
It suggested there was no data to back claims that kangaroo harvesting was sustainable and no reliable data on kangaroo populations or distribution. The report was later changed to state specifically that kangaroo harvesting was sustainable and based on "robust data."
Animals Australia executive director Glenys Oogjes said the report was altered shortly after she contacted senior government officials to discuss the ethical and environmental implications of the assessment. She had pointed out the State of the Environment Assessment did not support government policy on kangaroo harvesting or commercial cull quotas. Ms Oogjes said the subsequent changes to the report sparked protests from Department of Environment staff and protocols had since been introduced to prevent future political interference compromising the report's accuracy or independence. "We believe the report was changed after pressure from the minister and possibly interests within the commercial kangaroo industry. This is morally wrong; it is meant to be an accurate, independent national report," she said.
The report was prepared for the Howard government by an independent scientific committee led by University of Queensland agricultural scientist, Professor Bob Beeton. It was launched in December 2006 by former environment minister, Senator Ian Campbell, who claimed it was Australia's most comprehensive "environmental report card to date." The report concluded there was insufficient data to prove that commercial kangaroo harvesting did not have a detrimental impact on kangaroo numbers. It also concluded that there was no data on kangaroo population numbers, trends or distribution to convincingly suggest commercial harvesting was ecologically sustainable.
"Only data on numbers harvested are available. No data that would give an indication as to whether harvesting is sustainable, for example, data on population trends, population structure or distribution of harvested species, appear to be available," the report said. After Ms Oogjes contacted the Department, the report was rewritten and now claims "at least 25 years of robust population survey data exists" and "commercial kangaroo harvesting in Australia has been sustainable for more than 25 years." It also claims reliable data is compiled by kangaroo shooters and kangaroo meat processors, including "numbers killed, sex of animal and carcass weight" but much of this data "is not publicly accessible."
According to a statement added to the State of the Environment report's website, these changes were made "to reflect the view of the Department of the Environment and Water Resources that kangaroo population trend data are adequate to conclude that kangaroo harvesting is sustainable." Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, was unavailable for comment.
A national State of the Environment Report is published every five years, and is required by federal law to provide "accurate, up-to-date and accessible information" on environmental conditions, trends and pressures. The Canberra Times understands that as a result of these changes to the State of the Environment Report, new rules were introduced to ensure that changes to scientific data underpinning the report's assessments be subject to independent scrutiny, meet strict guidelines and be cleared by senior departmental officials. Ms Oogjes said Department of Environment staff were "demoralized by such blatant interference" and sought a ruling that any changes must be noted in the revised document as well as the reasons for the changes and a website link included to the document, pointing to the previous version.
Canberra Times, 01/08/2008