Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story documentary review: of human cruelty

part of my Directed by Women series
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Kangaroo A Love-Hate Story green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

A heartbreaking, deeply upsetting exposé of “the largest wildlife slaughter anywhere in the world,” one that has much to say about us humans and our relationship with the natural world.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
female codirector, female coscreenwriter, female coprotagonist
(learn more about this)

Here’s another newly unveiled savagery to add to the litany of all the ways in which people are awful: Thousands of kangaroos are killed every night in Australia in semi-legal culls by hunters using brutal means that inflict untold suffering on the animals, and which leave orphaned young to die of exposure and neglect. But then, as is often the case when you learn of such horrors, we also instantly get a small reprieve: there are many not-awful people who are trying to stop this happening.

Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story, from documentarians Kate McIntyre Clere and Michael McIntyre, is a shocking exposé of Australia’s contradictory, even hypocritical relationship with its cute, quirky national icon: it serves as mascot for everything from sports teams to airlines, and is a major draw for tourists, but it’s also considered a pest of “plague proportions” because it’s still trying to live on the land it inhabited for millions of years before colonials set up sheep and cattle ranches.

Chris Barnes, aka “Kangaroo Dundee,” with a friend at his roo sanctuary.
Chris Barnes, aka “Kangaroo Dundee,” with a friend at his roo sanctuary.

This is a heartbreaking, deeply upsetting film about “the largest wildlife slaughter anywhere in the world,” and not only for the gruesome footage that does not hide the cruelty to which these animals are subjected. Kangaroo also has much to say about us humans and our relationship with the natural world — that it is an inconvenience — at a point in time where we need to be much more aware of our impact upon it; and that we put profit above kindness and above reason. A long string of experts here, from scientists to farmers to animal-welfare activists to politicians to former “professional roo shooters” and others, explain how the kangaroos don’t actually compete with livestock for grazing resources, how the laws that theoretically protect the animals come with so many loopholes and exceptions that they’re all but useless, and how, because of the official miscounting that inflates the animal’s population, the kangaroo may actually be endangered. One man, Mark Pearson, the first person elected to the New South Wales parliament on an animal-welfare platform, has taken up the crusade of trying to shut down the trade in kangaroo meat for human consumption because of the incredibly unhygienic way in which the hunts are conducted. (Here, have some e coli and salmonella with your kangaroo burger.) But there’s profit in that trade, which is international in scope, so he and others who’ve tried to stop it are sometimes harassed by the authorities and outright terrorized from other, less official angles.

Kangaroo is not, then, an anti-ranching screed, nor does it take a stand against eating meat. (The point is made that we would never and do not tolerate farmed animals being subjected to the brutality we witness here.) It’s simply a plea for the world to see what’s happening to a unique and beloved creature, and to do what we can to stop it, as by not purchasing items made from kangaroo leather, as soccer cleats often are. The film is a call for a more thoughtful husbandry of nature, one that does not value animals more than humans, but one that does not cause unnecessary suffering of animals, either. It’s a fairly small ask, yet one that we are currently failing at.

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Steve Gagen
Steve Gagen
Wed, Jan 24, 2018 3:19pm

I have lived in Australia these past 40 years. I used to work for the Department of Agriculture here. I have met plenty of kangaroo shooters. Most of them are little better than hooligans. Most farmers do not permit people to shoot on their land, but they come anyway. They are mostly young men in pickup trucks and four wheel drives, fuelled by alcohol. Half the time they do not distinguish kangaroos from cows, horses, sheep and other farm animals. They also shoot holes in water tanks and road signs. They are scum.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Steve Gagen
Mon, Jan 29, 2018 11:02pm

This film is not kind to the roo shooters.

Steve Gagen
Steve Gagen
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Jan 30, 2018 1:42am

They do not deserve any kindness!

Jet Black
Jet Black
Tue, Jan 30, 2018 3:16pm

I was born, and live in Australia, and still marvel and the sight of the majestic kangaroo. I adore these creatures. This is their land and I abhor these kangaroo shooters who masquerade as environmental activists. It’s pure blood sport.

The Blunt Bushman
The Blunt Bushman
Fri, Feb 02, 2018 1:57am

A future without professional kangaroo harvesting will ultimately fail in animal welfare. I am yet to see this biased film but let’s see if you can recognise animal cruelty. Here is the real truth and not the twisted version that I suspect is being portrayed. View – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yeyJK9E4I4 for those that can’t, the first kangaroo is still alive and dragged off, the others are gut shot.
Do you really think closing the commercial trade is the answer, ultimately leaving it to amateur shooters and aboriginals that are in no way regulated nor have the same ethics and skills? You are naive to think you are making a difference, kangaroos will always be shot it just depends by who. In WA amateur shooters and aboriginals can shoot them without a license and that includes the occurrence of gut or chest shooting as seen on the internet. It is only amateur shooting that is our shame that shoots to waste or hunt kangaroos without licenses. With wallaby snaring in the top end of the Northern Territory by our armed forces, including Americans and other soldiers that are taught by aboriginals for so called survival training, government paid for exclusion and cell fencing, poisoning or turning off of waters and filling in dams to control kangaroo numbers, all seems to be less impotent to those that still think there meats only comes from the super market shelf that need to get a grip, with wildlife advocacy groups just wanting to suck you in and make money, for this is what I question in relation to their integrity and agenda. Instead the propaganda and comments are nearly always directed towards the professional shooters or the processing industry. Not once have I read an article relating to recreational shooters, farm hands or just some idiot with a gun, who for sport goes out and shoots kangaroos with his mates and then drives on and shoots the next gut shot roo without checking for that poor defenceless little joey that’s described. As professional shooters this does not occur, they inspect the pouch and with decapitation its instant death. Yes, it’s true, it gory and unpleasant but that’s the facts. In Australia we have to cull kangaroos and to think you don’t is unrealistic but it shouldn’t be to waste and not to be done inhumanely period. There are three groups that shoot kangaroos. The accredited commercial harvesters that are governed by accountable measures for animal welfare issues as carcasses are delivered and checked ensuring head shots, these shooters are highly regulated and enforced by governing authorities including meat quality that is checked by government meat inspectors and if that has to be tightened I’m all for it and then there are the amateur hunting and shooters that portray a different story. Any rogue shooters found doing the wrong thing need to lose their permit rights and firearm license. However in saying all this you are having yourselves on, because there is a huge pet meat trade that will never close but what a waste of a valued resource that is better for you than any other slaughtered meats found in your super market that I have been using to make sausages, hamburgers, shish kebabs and even occasionally meat pies and I and my family will continue to do so happily singing Skippy the best ever meat, the bush kangaroo.