When Americans think of kangaroos, we imagine them bounding majestically or jubilantly across the Outback in Australia. Beyond that, I’d wager we don’t put much thought into them. Which means the documentary Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story will come as one hell of a shock. Like if you loved dolphins, and so thought, “I should watch The Cove!” That kind of a shock where you learn the adorable animal you’d long admired from afar is being brutally slaughtered, and how you may be complicit.
Documentarians Kate McIntyre Clere and Michael McIntyre explore the fractured persona of the kangaroo. To the world, it is a sort of mascot of Australia, featured in the names of the nation’s sport teams and the wings of its major airline. But this native animal has been locally rebranded as a pest, thanks to colonial attitudes and willful misrepresentation. In an earnest attempt to curb kangaroos encroaching on farmland, land owners hire shooters, who stalk these marsupials in the night, and aim to kill. This has sparked a booming industry of kangaroo meat and leather. The untold cost on the kangaroo population, the Australian people, and the very soul of the nation are explored in this harrowing doc.
The duo of directors offer a variety of points of view and interview subjects, from politicians, animal activists, farmers, kangaroo shooters, and academics. But the most powerful testimony comes from a woman who has been a witness to the atrocities of kangaroo hunting for ten years. Because of the government’s many loopholes, shooters have more right to her land than even she does. So in the night, she can see their lights used to stun the animals, and then hear the shots. In the morning, she finds the carnage these hunters left behind. See, the shooters prep the meat in the wild. So in her backyard, she finds heaps of guts, dismembered roo heads, limbs, and too often, a defenseless little joey, ripped from its mothers pouch and bludgeoned to death by boot. If you’re gasping at this revelation, Kangaroo will have you quaking with the absolutely horrific footage that has rightly been compared to the imagery of clubbed baby seals.
Though a brutal watch, I recommend Kangaroo. In 99 minutes, it swiftly acquaints international audiences with the complexity of this issue. It shows succinctly how anti-roo propaganda has so long been blasted on the nightly news that fictional figures and talk of plague population growth is blindly accepted as fact. But the actual facts are a nightmare, not only for animal rights activists, but also for human consumers, as the kangaroo meat industry is woefully under-regulated. And as for kangaroo leather, well, you might own some. Check you shoes. Particularly your soccer cleats. If it says K-leather, sorry mate, you’ve contributed to the inhumane slaughter of a kangaroo.
Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story opens in NY and LA on January 19th, before expanding.