CANBERRA (Reuters) - A British animal protection group is using the face of former Beatle Paul McCartney in an international campaign against a planned cull of hundreds of kangaroos on an Australian military base.
As demonstrators on Wednesday promised human shields to protect the animals, McCartney appeared on a website set up by the British animal welfare group Viva! to condemn the cull of up to 500 animals using tranquilizer darts and lethal injection.
“There is an urgent need for action to protect kangaroos from a barbaric industry which slaughters them for meat and leather,” McCartney said in an undated message.
“Please do all you can to help Viva! end this shameful massacre.”
The eastern grey kangaroos, which feature on Australia’s coat of arms, are living on a military communications base in the nation’s capital Canberra.
Authorities say the animals, on death row since May last year, threaten other local species through overgrazing.
Wildlife Protection Association spokesman Pat O’Brien said the cull of animals synonymous with Australia could damage tourism and promised human shields to protect them, with barricades and demonstrations to be set up on Thursday.
“I’m sure there will be people standing in front of the dart guns,” O’Brien told Australian radio.
Viva!, or Vegetarians International Voice for Animals, said it had launched a Europe-wide campaign against the cull and by Wednesday had gathered more than 1,300 protest signatures from 36 countries on an Australian-based web page.
The petition, which had photographs of kangaroos in rifle crosshairs, included supporters from Spain, England, the United States, Switzerland, France, Canada, South Africa and Germany.
In 2004 there was an international outcry over the shooting of 900 kangaroos at a dam supplying water to Canberra. The animals were causing erosion problems through grazing.
Environment Minister Peter Garrett, a former head of Australia’s conservation movement, said he would not intervene.
“Programs like this, humanely and properly administered, are sometimes necessary,” he told reporters.
The cull, Garrett said, would not damage Australia’s anti-whaling campaign, which has angered Japan amid international efforts to close a loophole permitting scientific whaling.
But Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown said it would bring “further notoriety” for Australia’s treatment of wildlife.
“(Prime Minister) Kevin Rudd could begin by saving those kangaroos and making sure they are transported to a safe haven ... rather than be given a deadly injection and left as a heap on the ground,” he said.