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The Australian High Commission in London has denounced a campaign by a vegetarian group, Viva, against the export of kangaroo meat as an attempt to further its vegetarian aims.

A High Commission spokesman said the group was picking on a small and vulnerable section of the meat market with a campaign based on false, emotive and outdated information.

The spokesman said the group had claimed the shooting of kangaroos was to provide meat for export.

"Nothing is further from the truth. An Australian Government regulated cull is carried out to control kangaroo numbers and to prevent them from causing immense damage to the unique Australian environment, to other wildlife and to the kangaroos themselves.

"There is considerable scientific and environmental evidence in support of the need to control kangaroo numbers and only the most prolific kangaroo and wallaby species are subject to culling. Viva's claims of inhumane treatment of kangaroos and their young are totally rejected," the spokesman said.

"The cull, the source of meat for the market, is carried out by Government-licensed and trained professional shooters, and then under strict Government enforced regulations."

He emphasised that kangaroo meat was a by-product of the cull and not the reason for it. Commercial interests had absolutely no influence on the setting of annual quotas.

The High Commission spokesman said an independent Australian Senate Committee - similar to a Parliamentary Select Committee in the UK - had this month published a wide-ranging report* which examined the issue. In its conclusions the Committee was critical of Viva and other international animal welfare campaigners, saying they were using false and outdated information to attack the kangaroo trade.

The spokesman continued: "There are many examples where Viva's claims can easily be disproved. The group was alleging that 10 million kangaroos were being killed a year out of a total population which it claimed was only 19 million.

"The fact is that the cull has been carried out for 20 years, and if Viva's figures were correct, the kangaroo population would have been wiped out many times over," the spokesman said. "The cull is less than 10 per cent of kangaroo numbers - not more than the 50 per cent alleged by Viva."

The spokesman said Viva's claims were enormously damaging to Australia, to its reputation as a country with pride in its environmental record, and to the legitimate kangaroo meat industry.

* Australian Senate Committee report on The Commercial Utilisation of Australian Native Wildlife

SOURCE Australian High Commission

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