A ban on the sale and import of kangaroo products is set to be reimposed in California on January 1, despite efforts by the Australian Government to have the restriction permanently lifted.
According to an article on the ABC website, the Australian Government believes there are 600 retailers selling kangaroo products in California, including meat, pet food and leather products such as football shoes and some gloves used by fire fighters.
It has been illegal to import kangaroo products to California since 1971, but in 2007 a moratorium was placed on that ban, largely due to the lobbying efforts of sportswear companies that wanted to sell football shoes made from kangaroo hides.
The moratorium is due to end on January 1, 2016 and violators could face fines or prison sentences.
Animal rights groups in California have said the ban should never have been suspended.
“These iconic species in Australia really should not be killed in such staggering numbers for something as frivolous as shoes and pet food,” Humane Society of the United States lobbyist Jennifer Fearing said.
Supporters of kangaroo harvesting say the practice is science-based and environmentally sustainable while critics say it is a threat to the animals’ survival.
Alan Brady has been involved in the kangaroo harvesting industry for much of his working life, based in southern Queensland for a number of processing works and as a professional kangaroo shooter.
Mr Brady said he was not surprised the Californian ban on roo products had been re-instated but was adamant that the animals were harvested humanely.
“There is big pressure, to sell a kangaroo it has to be head-shot, it cannot be shot anywhere else, shooters must have approved gear and that really does count,” he said.
“A head-shot to the brain is the most humane way you could kill anything.”
The Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia (KIAA) said the annual retail value of the kangaroo product sales in California was about $200 million.
“It is a fairly substantial trade of product,” the association’s executive officer, John Kelly, said.
“It will have an impact in Australia, but the industry will regroup and find markets elsewhere.
“It is California that will miss out on retail opportunities.”
The Australian Government has been fighting to try to prevent the ban from being reinstated.
Through the Department of Agriculture, the Australian Government gave the KIAA a grant of $143,000 to put towards funding Californian lobbying firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips to work on permanently lifting the ban.
In September, California assembly member Mike Gipson used a tactic known as “gut and amend” to swap a bill dealing with gambling that had already reached the Senate floor with legislation to repeal the kangaroo product ban.
His effort to pass the new legislation failed.