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At the Puckapunyal army base in Victoria yesterday [Tuesday], ten professional shooters set out on an emergency cull of 15,000 kangaroos, leaving numerous voices to call for a change in the state’s law that makes it illegal to use the marsupials for commercial gain.

The cull was ordered to reduce the number of animals in the area after the Defence Department’s poor management of the base’s native population, which is trapped on the 45,000 hectare site by an electric fence, led to significant overbreeding. This led to suggestions that the animals were sick and starving through a lack of food. The cull will be conducted under Environment Australia and RSPCA guidelines; which mean that each shooter can kill only 100 kangaroos a day, and that they must also kill joeys in the pouches of dead females.

The department said that while the kangaroo carcasses resulting from this cull, and the 30,000 more that could be killed under its management plan, will be buried in pits on the army base, in future the bodies should be sold to meat processors.

Colin Trinder, the department’s director of environmental stewardship, explained in The Age: “It is not the wisest use of the resource to stick them in the ground. We would hope the Victorian Government would see the wisdom of our approach.”

Farmers in the area support Trinder’s arguments, and the Victorian Farmers Federation says that the government should allow for commercial returns from the cull.

For the time being, however, the move appears unlikely. Victoria’s Premier Steve Bracks said yesterday that the law would remain because surveys and inquiries have found that the public do not like the idea of a kangaroo meat industry.

“We have no processing capacity or ability in Victoria, nor do we want this,” Bracks stated: “We are not going to be changing the law on that matter.”