The old myth of riding a kangaroo to school is shot dead in
the dark of the night in the opening moments of Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story. Said kangaroo springs into the air as
the bullet pierces its neck, the pain clearly evident as it flees into the dark
petrified. Unlike the seals of Canada, this slaughter occurs at night, when the
roos are most active and the public can’t see a thing. They don’t scream
out in pain, instead suffering in silence, the palpable fear clearly evident in
This is not an easy sit. That shot kangaroo bounds off into
the darkness in fear to either die a long, drawn out death, or to be hunted
down and finished off like they’re nothing. The person behind the camera that’s
capturing the footage of the kangaroos being slaughtered voices their alarm
that this is happening on their property again. As an opening to a film, there’s
no bigger slap in the face to ensure you’re going to pay attention to what will
unfurl over the next hour and forty five minutes than here.
Kangaroo is a
searing, unrelenting, devastating documentary that looks at the way Australia
treats its national icon. It makes up one half of the Australian emblem. It stands
proudly atop the Australian parliament in Canberra. It flies across the world on
the tail of QANTAS planes. Yet, it’s long been considered a pest, a source of
irritation for Aussie farmers. There’s admiration and adoration for this unique
marsupial, yet equally, there is disgust and hatred directed towards them for
Directors Kate McIntyre Clere and Michael McIntyre have
crafted Australia’s answer to The Cove and
Blackfish. This is not to say that
there isn’t a bid to try and have a fair and balanced discussion about
kangaroos in Australia, with farmers who are affected by kangaroos being given
a fair amount of time to discuss exactly why they want kangaroos eliminated
from their property (as well as neighbouring properties too). However, their
discussions, when presented alongside the clear evidence of brutality directed
towards kangaroos, feels more like they’re talking from an era long gone.
ABC News footage from the 60’s and 70’s is presented to give
an understanding of how the perception of kangaroos has changed over the years
(spoiler alert: it hasn’t changed a heck of a lot). The impact of colonialism on
Australian wildlife is giving a thorough assessment with the British penchant
for hunting shown in all its terrifying glory. Men on horses ride through the
bush, rounding up swathes of kangaroos into a fenced off funnel, where they are
in turn beaten to death until there is a bloody pile of corpses.
Flash forward to today, and the reality of the night time
hunts that occur every night throughout Australia is realised with harsh, gut
churning footage. After the kangaroo is shot, they are dragged to the ute that
will carry their corpses off to be butchered for pet food, human food, or to be
turned into football boots. Their heads are cut off, their feet and tail are
removed with secateurs, thrown aside like unwanted junk. Their carcass is
strewn up on the back of a truck. The driver then cuts a path through the
darkness with their spotlight, seeking out their next victim.
But what if the kangaroo that is shot is a female? Well, in
some of the most unsettling moments I’ve seen in recent years, we bear witness
to footage of joeys that being beaten against the side of a ute by young kids
with glee. Later, the corpse of a hairless joey is found in a tree, having been
thrown aside like trash. And yet, the footage goes even further by showing an
emaciated joey – the bones of its hocks having worn through its fragile skin –
stumbling across bare ground in fear, its mother long gone in the night. For
some, this footage may be too much, it may be too gut churning or upsetting or
traumatising – and yet, that’s the exact purpose of it.
Just like The Cove
and Blackfish, Kangaroo doesn’t shy away from the exceptionally brutal actions of
mankind. Yes, it’s devastating, but not without reason. After all, we should
know what’s happening in our country, especially when there is a government
that is complicit in the downfall of the national icon. The kangaroo hunting
industry is one that clearly is eating itself whole, an ouroboros that
continues swallowing with glee, telling itself that its actions are positive,
and that every gulp is a step forward for Australia as a whole.
The perception that kangaroos are ‘pests’ is one that’s been
built up throughout the years by the public and the governments that perpetuate
this fallacy just to help fuel the industry that has sprung up in response to
the continual slaughter of these unique beings. In turn, the wellbeing of
farmers is paramount. With inaccurate population data inflates figures of how
many kangaroos Australia has, and the opinions of the hunters that are employed
to rid famers properties of kangaroos, the narrative that the directors present
is one that questions whether there will even be kangaroos left in the future.
And while this could be seen as heavy handed direction, relying
on sensationalism rather than quiet, meditative consideration, there is little
need for a moderate take on this story. There simply is not time. Australia is one
of the five countries that hold 70% of the worlds untouched wilderness,
yet, it’s also one of the countries that at the forefront of deforestation,
with comparisons to the
destruction of the Amazon being made by the WWF. All the while, there is an
extinction level event occurring in front of Australia’s eyes. Australia
stands by doing little for its environment and the fauna that live in it,
instead willing to open up the land for more mines, more farms, and more
destruction. It’s painful to watch this happen, and this documentary simply
puts the deaths of kangaroos into context of the world at large.
There is a lot more to Kangaroo:A Love-Hate Story, with Russia and China being major players in the way kangaroo is consumed around the world, but these concepts are best discovered for yourself. This is an important documentary. This demands to be seen. If there was any justice, just like The Cove and Blackfish, this documentary would inspire a country wide change, but I fear that the Australian public is simply too complacent to care about the death of the kangaroo to get up in arms about the treatment of this iconic creature.
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