Greenpeace and PETA are about to get in a brawl over kangaroos. When Greenpeace isn’t out trying to prevent fishermen from harpooning whales they are suggesting Australians give up beef for kangaroo meat.
This does some make some degree of sense non-indigenous domesticated animals have done considerable harm. Rabbits, foxes, cats, mice and rats, European birds, exotic plants and all manner of goats, camels, donkeys and horses multiplied without natural enemies. Mice, rats and rabbits reached plague proportions, consuming vegetation and crops. Cats and foxes preyed on native birds and mammals who had few defenses against them. Eurasian rats ate birds’ eggs and even preyed on tiny mammals and their young.
Australians moved into new areas, bringing the rabbits as a meat source, and by the early 20th century, rabbits had denuded most of Western Australia, including an extremely important biodiversity “hotspot” in the far southwest.
So assuming that non-native animals are to be consumed instead of cattle, Greenpeace may have failed to take into account there are approximately 25 million cattle in Australia alone. Adult kangaroos weigh approximately 150 pounds so to replace 25 million 1500 pound cows Australians will need around 200 million kangaroos to feed Australia, or four times the existing kangaroo population. Currently around three million kangaroos are killed and harvested for meat each year. They are shot with high-powered guns between the eyes at night.
Australians eat about a third of the 30 million kilograms of roo meat produced annually. The delicacy is exported to dozens of countries and is most popular in Germany, France and Belgium.
The Greenpeace report has renewed calls for Victoria to lift a ban on harvesting roos for food.
Today’s report by leading scientist Dr Mark Diesendorf, from the University of NSW, says greenhouse gas emissions need to be slashed by at least a third by 2020 to avoid a climate change catastrophe.
His recommendations include:
REDUCING beef consumption and increasing kangaroo meat production.
CUTTING gas and coal production.
HALTING land clearing and deforestation.
SHIFTING to renewable energy such as wind power and bioelectricity from crop residues.
“The world is currently on track to experience runaway global warming with average temperatures soon to exceed 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, Dr Diesendorf said.
“We face a catastrophe unless there is urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2020.”
A major report by the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology released this month warned average temperatures will rise 1C by 2030 and could increase as much as 5C in Australia by 2070 unless global greenhouse emissions are cut dramatically.
Farmyard flatulence is no laughing matter in Australia, where methane emissions from sheep and cows contribute significantly to the output of greenhouse gases. Now scientists plan to tackle the problem by studying a creature better adapted to local conditions: the kangaroo.
Kangaroos have a similar diet to cattle, but produce no methane, one of the gases implicated in global warming. Scientists in Queensland believe that bacteria found in their stomachs, which help them to process their food, could be used to reduce emissions by the nation’s 23 million cows and 170 million sheep.
Australia’s livestock herds discharge more than three million tons of methane a year, accounting for 14 per cent of Australia’s output of greenhouse gases. Researchers have isolated 40 types of bacteria in the eastern grey kangaroo and are screening them to determine which are best at digesting native pasture.
The Queensland Minister for Primary Industries, Henry Palaszczuk, said that the most promising bacteria could be grown in a laboratory and introduced into farmyard animals.
The bacteria are thought to reduce hydrogen, which is linked with the production of methane. The theory is that kangaroos’ microbes have evolved over millions of years to process Australian grasses, while sheep and cattle – which arrived from Europe only two centuries ago – are less efficient.
“Unlike cattle and sheep, kangaroos don’t appear to emit any methane from stomach fermentation,” said Athol Cleavey, a scientist with Queensland’s Agency for Food and Fibre Sciences.
Methane, produced when animals digest plants, has a global warming potential 21 times greater than carbon dioxide, which is generated by burning fossil fuels. Australia is responsible for nearly 2 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, although it accounts for only 1 per cent of global economic activity.
Mr Cleavey and his researchers also hope to use kangaroo microbes to improve the efficiency of the cattle and wool industries by making native grasses more digestible for livestock.
The kangaroo is the latest weapon in the battle to cut farmyard emissions. Australian scientists are already experimenting with a vaccine that they believe can reduce them by 20 per cent a year. There has also been talk of imposing a tax on farmers who fail to curb their cattle’s flatulence.
The problem is even more acute in New Zealand, where the nation’s 45 million sheep and eight million cattle are blamed for 44 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.
So to save the planet we are going to have to make some dietary adjustments.
Feral cats and dogs replace cows – cats are destroying natural wildlife and breeding in uncontrollable numbers. About 7 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters every year, and all of this meat is being wasted. If it’s good enough for Koreans we can’t afford to waste this source of protein.
Prairie dogs replace pigs – the new(er) white meat.
Pigeons – the flying rat could replace chickens.
Rats – PETA wants people to go vegetarian, nothing like stringy rat food to help people make the switch.
Whales – Greenpeace might bitch but they are native and a good source of tasty meat!
Kangaroo meat – lots of tasty bits!