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Is that you, Skippy? (consuming Choices).

This month Alison Sampson asks about eating kangaroo meat.

The notes on eating fish in the April edition of Habitat were really helpful, but what about red meat? I eat kangaroo, figuring that it's got to be better than cow! (No cloven hooves, no grainfeeding, and poo native dung beetles can cope with. Besides, it tastes fantastic.) I am thinking about eating wild rabbit, too. (If we all ate them there might be less of them!) Is my thinking sound? I'm sure many people would appreciate any suggestions for choosing ecologically sound red meat.

Jason Alexandra responds

Alison raises some important questions about the origins and environmental impacts of different forms of red meat.

Clearly there are huge variations in the production systems that range from intensive factory farms through to wild harvesting. Since the publishing of the book Diet for a Small Planet, the social and environmental costs of high protein, meat based diets has been on the agenda. In that book Frances Moore-Lappe argued the importance of humans deriving most of their protein from plant sources. However in countries like Australia there are vast areas of land unsuitable for arable crops and the free ranging or wild harvesting of animals makes sense.

Obviously there are important questions of how animals are grazed and landscapes protected. There are also important questions about the impacts on wild populations of harvesting pressure. Numerous animal rights and ethical issues have also been raised about harvesting of wild populations like kangaroos. In many respects the question of harvesting roos for human consumption has been one of the more controversial issues for both the conservation movement and the animal rights movement.

While personally I don't consume any red meat, I believe that Alison is on the right track for those who wish to. Assuming proper regulation there is no reason why meat sourced from kangaroos can't be an important source of protein in Australia.

On the rabbit question, it is doubtful that harvesting would reduce their population to any significant extent. Rabbits were a very important source of protein throughout the depression when they were known as `poor man's chicken'. Despite a sizeable harvesting effort the rabbit population remained in plague proportions.

The initial attempts to introduce myxomatosis were stopped by the Victorian Director of Public Health. He was concerned about myxo's potential impact on the supply of high protein food to Australia's large population of poor and unemployed people who depended on rabbits. His intervention on behalf of the rural poor delayed the successful introduction of myxo for over a decade. It wasn't until myxo was successfully established that rabbit populations crashed, therefore it is reasonable to assume that even with quite high hunting pressure during the Depression this had little impact on the rabbit's famous breeding capacity.

Alison's thinking is sound, in general it is more ecologically sound to consume wild harvested and feral meat, especially when this is compared with intensively farmed livestock. The latter products depend on high energy and protein inputs while wild harvested meat is a product gleaned from the landscape.

* Jason Alexandra previously worked for ACF as the Sustainable Land-Use Coordinator and is now a consultant. Ph: 03 9341 3657
COPYRIGHT 2001 Australian Conservation Foundation
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Title Annotation:kangaroo meat
Publication:Habitat Australia
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Aug 1, 2001
Words:533
Previous Article:Ideas in print.
Next Article:Putting it into practice. (ACF Member Profile).
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