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

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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