Kangaroo meat at Lidl – weekly promotions

Following yet another cut and pasted reply from Lidl which didn’t answer any queries, I had a quick chat with the lovely people at Viva (www.viva.org.uk   |    www.savethekangaroo.com). As far as we can tell, Lidl sell kangaroo meat as part of a ‘weekly promotion’ whereby they choose a product they don’t normally sell and sell it for that week only. The problem is, these weeks appear to be sporadic – we have no way of knowing if and when the next promotion will appear, and whether kangaroo meat will be part of it. The fact that Lidl refuse to confirm they will stop selling kangaroo meat would suggest that they will continue.

Below is a copy of the letter I have sent to Mr Ronny Gottschlich, who is the CEO of Lidl in the UK. I have also sent a copy to their customer services department. It  highlights the claims made by their customer services in previous emails, and my queries which remain unanswered despite several emails over several months.

(Just for reference (I will add it to the useful links also), I got Mr Gottschlich’s name and contact from the CEO Email Addresses website, which lists UK companies and their CEOs, along with the CEO email address, and the official company website. )

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Dear Mr Gottschlich,

Until earlier this year I was a customer of Lidl in the UK. Upon finding out that Lidl was selling kangaroo meat – a meat produced under inhumane practices – I boycotted your stores and wrote to your customer services department. I am aware that your stores do not sell kangaroo on a permanent basis, but as ‘weekly promotions’ that run from time to time. However, Lidl are the only UK supermarket who still sell this product – all others have ended the sale of this product due to concerns over animal welfare.  I advised your customer services department of the barbaric slaughter of the kangaroos, and provided a large amount of evidence to show that animal welfare is a huge concern with this product.

Over the past few months I have been repeatedly fobbed off, and the last two emails I have received from your customer service department have ignored the queries I have asked, and have been brief and dismissive.

I would therefore like to put these questions directly to you, in the hopes of highlighting this extremely serious issue, and ending the sale of kangaroo meat in your UK stores. I thank you in advance for your time and consideration on this issue, I am aware that you are extremely busy.

The emails I received in response from your customer service department highlighted some grave concerns over the information they are using in defence of selling kangaroo meat. Below I have quoted their claims in bold, with my queries below each one.

Over 75% of commercial kangaroo harvests are male animals, very few are female.

How many female animals are ‘very few’? Even a small percentage of millions of animals harvested could run to tens or hundreds of thousands – 25% is a large percentage. Furthermore, what kind of responsible ‘wildlife management’ would take mostly from one sex? Surely this will have a massive impact on the gene pool, with fewer males mating? This will be extremely detrimental to the long term survival and gene diversity of future generations.

Furthermore, the Code of Practice for the Human Shooting of Kangaroo requires harvesters to avoid taking females with obvious pouch young and/or obvious young at foot and kangaroo harvesters are skilled in avoiding them. During 2010-11 all licensed harvesters had to undergo a nationally approved re-training program.  Part of this focused on welfare outcomes. Therefore, very few females with young are taken.  

How can Lidl defend ANY industry if dependent young kangaroos, however few, are killed and thrown away as trash? Also, figures from the University of Sydney completely contradict what you are saying – http://thinkkangaroos.uts.edu.au/issues/welfare-joeys. They state that “Around 300,000 young at foot and 800,000 pouch young killed or left to die each year as a result of the commercial industry. This equates to 11,000,000 joeys over 10 years.” ELEVEN MILLION BABIES dying over 10 years of commercial harvesting is surely an unacceptable figure?

In the few cases when a female with a joey is taken, the Code lays out strict guidelines on how to deal with these. This Code was written by a group of the most informed and independent scientists in the field and details best practice. Of the 25% of females taken only 20% (5% of the total) at any one time can be expected to have ‘young at foot’.  The fate of these is the most contentious issue for many examining the welfare aspects of the harvest.  However, further research currently being finalised has indicated that these adolescents survive the removal of their mothers with surprisingly little stress and quickly adjust to independence.  

This is not my understanding – which is that most females will have a joey in pouch and adolescent at foot. It does not ring true to me that an dependent adolescent joey that has just been brutally orphaned would ‘quickly adjust to independence’. These babies are still with their mothers for a reason. According to the RSPCA website http://kb.rspca.org.au/What-happens-to-joeys-when-female-kangaroos-are-shot_76.html it clearly states ‘When females with young at foot are shot, the young tend to disperse and it is unlikely that these joeys will survive unless they are fully independent of their mothers’ and ‘Each time a female kangaroo is shot her dependent joey is either killed by the shooter or will die as a result of predation, dehydration or starvation. The RSPCA has serious concerns about the suffering caused by shooting females with pouch young.’

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is the main non-Government body with concern for animal welfare in Australia. It has conducted two comprehensive audits of animal welfare outcomes in the kangaroo harvest. These showed that, at the time, 99.8% of all kangaroos taken were shot either in the head or at the junction of the head and neck.  Both outcomes result in instant death.  Again the industry is continually seeking to improve standards and the Code has recently been reviewed to require Harvesters to only target the brain, without any of the stress of capture, transport etc. involved in beef or lamb slaughter. In NSW in 2010 for example 1.834 random, unannounced audits were conducted by the NSW National Parks Authority and the NSW Food Authority, these audit all aspects of regulatory compliance including the Animal Welfare Code.

As Kangaroos are killed in their environment – out in the middle of nowhere – any unclean kills will just be dumped before the harvesters return for inspections. This severely skews these inspection figures completely.

Production of kangaroo meat is tightly controlled by the Australian government. Kangaroo meat is sold in virtually all Australian supermarkets and to thousands of restaurants and is certainly not regarded as a ‘novelty meat’.

Until recently (it was legalised in most states for human consumption in 1993) Kangaroo meat was not eaten by Australians at all, nor was it used in any pet foods – it was consumed by Aborigines as it was the most widely available food to them at the time. Australian supermarkets do stock the meat, but it is sold to less that 14% of the population – the majority of Australians still refuse to eat it. Russia has banned the import and sale of Kangaroo meats, as it was seen as a health risk to humans.  How does Lidl justify that it is not a ‘novelty food’ in Britain?

With regards to the hygiene concerns you express, we can confirm that random samples are selected upon receipt at the processing establishment and prior to processing are microbiologically tested. In addition each export Kangaroo Processing premise is required to maintain a Product Hygiene Index. To our knowledge there has not been any reported incidence of food poisoning linked to consumption of kangaroo meat.

Lidl mentions inspections, but don’t mention that Russia has banned all kangaroo meat products because of human health concerns : http://en.ria.ru/business/20130725/182423515/Russia-Bans-Australian-Kangaroo-Meat.html. What is your opinion on this?

Some very well informed organisations support the kangaroo industry for a wide range of reasons, mostly because they see kangaroos as a more environmentally friendly way to produce meat in Australia than introduced sheep or cattle.  However, the support of the Australian Veterinary Association is telling in recognition of the animal welfare outcomes of the harvest.  The AVA reported to a 1998 Senate Inquiry into Wildlife Utilisation: “The Australian Veterinary Association believes that the Australian kangaroo population is a unique and valuable resource and that harvesting is a legitimate and humane use of that resource”. (AVA 1998) Other professional bodies supporting the kangaroo harvest include,

·         Australasian Wildlife Management Society

·         Ecological Society of Australia

·         CSIRO

·         Australian Association of Veterinary Conservation Biologists

How can kangaroo meat by an environmental friendly choice for UK consumers – it is exported thousands of miles from the opposite side of the world by air and/or sea?

The organisations  you quote as ‘supporting the kangaroo harvest’ are not supporting it, per se. They are wildlife management organisations, working with the harvesters to try and ensure that the kangaroo population does not decline to extinction – a real possibility if these commercial harvesters continue at the rate they are.

Organisations which are OPPOSED to the commercial harvesting of Kangaroos :

  • Animal Liberation, ACT – a quote from their website : The ACT (Australian Capital Territory) does not have a commercial kangaroo industry. The ACT Government recently looked into the viability of establishing such an industry, but decided against it because ‘Commercial kangaroo harvesting is the primary focus of animal rights organisations opposed to killing of kangaroos. A commercial operation in the National Capital would probably draw significant negative publicity and increased protest action.’.
  • ACT Government – ‘The ACT, Tasmania, Victoria and the Northern Territory, do not currently participate in the commercial kangaroo harvesting industry’. They also state their SEVEN  further reasons why commercial kangaroo harvesting remains unlikely in the ACT.
  • VIVA/Save the Kangaroo – “Clubbed to death, stamped on, or left to die from starvation – that’s how Australia deals with 1.3 million joeys every year after their mothers are shot for their meat or leather. These are the pathetic little by-products of the world’s greatest wildlife massacre.”
  • David Nicholls, former kangaroo shooter – “I, and I would suggest, many other kangaroo shooters, were and are, very uneasy with the practice of having to kill Joey’s on a never ending basis. It was not understood then, that the Joey-at-foot would also die in a state of terror by psychological deprivation, predation or starvation. Many kangaroo shooters now convince themselves that this joey escapes and lives happily ever after. Delusions of this sort are not uncommon in the industry and in governments and their acting agents. “
  • Australian Wildlife Protection Council – Some reasons against Kangaroo Farming
  • Australian Society for Kangaroos – ‘There has been a massive marketing campaign by the kangaroo industry in recent years promoting kangaroo meat as humane, good for you and good for the environment. This marketing campaign has one intention; to increase profits for the kangaroo industry. However when you take a closer look at the campaign, it has serious flaws and is not supported by credible science.’

There are MANY, MANY other organisations across Australia and worldwide which are opposed to commercial kangaroo farming, but this should give you a short oversight into the concerns I am raising, and the fact that millions of other people worldwide share these concerns.As a final quote I shall share with you a quote from a representative of the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia – the organisation where you have obtained all of your information, and references, that you have shared with me. This representative was quoted as saying ‘I think we are starting to have to seriously consider the end of the kangaroo industry nationally’.

Thank you again for your time, I look forward to hearing from you soon with regards my queries. And once again, I would urge Lidl to stop selling kangaroo meat.

Yours sincerely,

Tess Milligan

 

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